Leaders hold vigil to honor 5 people shot to death in SE Texas in place of canceled fundraiser

A mass shooting is defined as any incident in which four or more people are shot and wounded or killed, excluding the shooter.

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Sunday, April 30, 2023
Prayer vigil to be held for 5 victims shot to death in Cleveland, TX
Democratic lawmakers in San Jacinto canceled a scheduled meeting on Saturday to honor the five victims killed late Friday.

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (KTRK) -- A prayer vigil was held on Saturday for the five people who were killed after a gunman opened fire inside a Cleveland, Texas, home late Friday evening.

The San Jacinto County Democratic Party canceled its pre-planned fundraiser in the wake of the shooting and held a vigil for the victims instead.

The shooting happened Friday night in the 100 block of Walters Road in the Trails End area of Cleveland, about 45 miles north of Houston.

According to the San Jacinto County Sheriff's Office, the suspect, 38-year-old Francisco Oropeza, was intoxicated when he began shooting an AR-15 outside on his front porch.

ORIGINAL REPORT: Officials reach cold trail after recovering items believed to be Cleveland gunman's during manhunt

His neighbors asked him to be quiet because they had a baby who was trying to sleep, deputies said.

According to Sheriff Greg Capers, Oropeza responded by telling them that it was his property and that one person in the house got a video of the suspect walking up to the front door with the rifle.

The sheriff told Eyewitness News that five victims were shot from the neck up, "almost execution style."

According to Capers, two of the victims, all believed to be from Honduras, were found lying over two children inside.

One of the victims was taken to the hospital, where they were pronounced dead.

ABC13 interviewed one of the survivors, the father of the 8-year-old boy who said shortly after confronting Oropeza, he walked up to the front door and shot his wife before coming into the house.

Three other people went to the hospital covered in blood, but authorities said they were not physically injured.

In a press conference, the family confirmed the victims' identities as 8-year-old Daniel Enrique Lazo Guzmán, 21-year-old Diana Velasquez Alvarado, 31-year-old Obdulia Molina Rivera, 25-year-old Sonia Argentina Guzmán Taibot , and 18-year-old Josué Jonatan Cáceres

According to FBI Special Agent in Charge James Smith, officials believe that Oropeza is on foot and poses a threat to the community as he is considered armed and dangerous.

"San Jacinto County is devastated by the horrific events that happened last night," John Michael Adams, Chair of the San Jacinto County Democratic Party, said. "We've decided that it no longer made sense to hold our annual fundraiser tonight, but still felt we needed to come together as a community - however we could - and send our love and prayers to the loved ones of the victims of this senseless shooting."


Family members have started to identify the victims, who ranged in age from 8 to 40 years old and are believed to be from Honduras.

A manhunt is still underway for Oropeza, who deputies described as a Hispanic man who is 5 feet 8 inches tall. He was last seen wearing jeans, a black shirt, and work boots. Investigators said he has a goatee and short black hair.

"We don't yet know the exact motivations of this deranged individual, but no one can sensibly say that someone this evil should have been able to get their hands on a weapon designed for the battlefield. We need gun safety reform in this state - and we need it right now, before even more kids are slaughtered," Gilberto Hinojosa, Chair of the Texas Democratic Party, said.

A mass shooting is defined as any incident in which four or more people are shot and wounded or killed, excluding the shooter, according to Everytown for Gun Safety.

The U.S. is on a record pace for mass killings this year, with at least 18 shootings since Jan. 1 that left four or more people dead. The violence is sparked by a range of motives: murder-suicides and domestic violence; gang retaliation; school shootings and workplace vendettas.

It all comes after a sweeping bipartisan gun law, the most significant legislative response to gun violence in decades was enacted.

President Joe Biden signed the law last summer, and it has already prevented some potentially dangerous people from owning guns.

Yet since that signing last summer, the tally of mass shootings in the United States has only grown. Five dead at a nightclub in Colorado. Eleven were killed at a dance hall in California. And on March 27, three 9-year-olds and three adults were shot and killed at an elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee.

The law was approved in the weeks after the shooting of 19 children and two adults at a school in Uvalde, Texas.

Several months in, the law has had some success: Stepped-up FBI background checks have blocked gun sales for 119 buyers under the age of 21, prosecutions have increased for unlicensed gun sellers and new gun trafficking penalties have been charged in at least 30 cases around the country. Millions of new dollars have flowed into mental health services for children and schools.

But the persistence of mass shootings in the United States highlights the limits of congressional action. Because the law was a political compromise, it did not address many Democratic priorities for gun control, including universal background checks or the ban on "assault weapons" for which Biden repeatedly has called.

In Saturday's deadly shooting in Cleveland, Texas, the suspect's background with gun ownership wasn't immediately known.

A GoFundMe was created to raise money for the bodies of Sonia Argentina Gúzman and Daniel Enrique Laso-Guzman to be sent back to their native Honduras.

The woman's husband and the child's father created the fundraiser.

READ MORE: Texas ban that limits 18- to 20-year-olds from carrying handguns is pending appeal

The Associated Press contributed to this report.