Texas prison officials suspend inmate transports as Gonzalo Lopez's escape under review

Investigators believe Lopez killed Mark Collins and his four grandsons, ranging in age from 11 to 18, as he eluded a manhunt.

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Monday, June 6, 2022
Senator pushes for change after chain of events of escaped prisoner
A state lawmaker is pushing for change when it comes to transporting high-risk inmates after officials say an escaped inmate killed a grandfather and four of his grandsons.

TOMBALL, Texas (KTRK) -- Texas prison officials suspended inmate transports Monday in the wake of convicted murderer Gonzalo Lopez's own flight from the law after he managed to overpower guards on a transport bus.

The video above is from a previous report.

Texas prison officials suspended inmate transports Monday in the wake of convicted murderer Gonzalo Lopez's own flight from the law after he managed to overpower guards on a transport bus.

The action comes as State Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, who chairs the Texas Senate's Criminal Justice Committee, pressed the Texas Department of Justice to suspend transports until safeguards are in place.

"TDCJ has temporarily suspended the transport of inmates as the agency conducts a comprehensive review of its transportation procedures. If it becomes necessary to do a transport such as releasing or an emergency medical appointment, additional security measures will be implemented," the TDCJ wrote in a statement sent to ABC13. "The agency is conducting an internal Serious Incident Review and also intends to bring in an outside firm to conduct an independent review to identify factors that may have lead to the escape of (Gonzalo) Lopez."

Whitmire specifically asked that prison officials require three armed correctional officers on a bus that carries violent offenders with a trailing vehicle behind.

TDCJ currently requires only two officers on the bus and no requirements for trailing a car behind.

TDCJ's actions come after Eyewitness News reached out to lawmakers, including Whitmire, after Lopez's escape to see what changes were being pushed.

"I don't think we need to wait until January," Whitmire said over the weekend, referring to the start of the next Texas legislative session. "Starting Monday, they need to have someone trailing."

Lopez is accused of killing a grandfather and his four grandsons while on the run. Law enforcement then caught up and shot Lopez to death during a confrontation more than 250 miles from where the escape took place.

"While the investigation continues into exactly what happened with the recent escape and tragic murder of five members of the Collins family, we must act swiftly to ensure no other Texan is in danger of losing their life or being harmed by an escaped inmate being transported on Texas roads," Whitmire said.

On May 12, officials said Lopez was being taken from the Hughes Unit in Gatesville, Texas, to the Estelle Unit in Huntsville for a medical appointment when he escaped.

Lopez was serving two life sentences for capital murder and attempted capital murder during the escape.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which oversees the state's prisons, said due to his criminal history and restrictive housing status, Lopez was being transported in a separate, caged area of the bus designed for high-risk inmates.

During the transport, Lopez reportedly got out of his restraints, cut through the expanded metal, and crawled out of the bottom of the cage.

That's when law enforcement officials say he attacked the bus driver.

The officer reportedly stopped the bus and engaged in an altercation with Lopez. The two of them eventually exited the bus.

Officials said a second officer exited the bus' rear door and tried to approach Lopez.

However, Lopez reportedly reentered the bus and began driving away.

The two officers fired shots at the inmate, which ultimately disabled the bus when a bullet struck a rear tire.

The bus then traveled a short distance and left the roadway before Lopez got out and ran into the woods off Highway 7 in Leon County, officials said.

During a three-week manhunt, officials believe Lopez broke into a ranch in Centerville, killed a grandfather and his four grandchildren, and stole firearms and a truck from their getaway home. Police spotted the truck on Thursday night in Atascosa County, where Lopez was killed during a shootout with police, according to officials.

"Whoever placed those on the individual, there was a failure," Whitmire told ABC13 on Saturday. "The procedures terribly failed the victims of this crime and the people of Texas. They are not supposed to ever get out of their handcuffs or shackles. Someone didn't put them on properly. Was it a human error, or did someone intentionally allow the cuffs to be loose enough for this individual to escape? You would certainly hope not, but we have to check every possibility."

ABC13 has reached out to TDCJ, who has previously told us there is an active investigation into the circumstances behind Lopez's escape, and one of the officers on the bus is back to work, while the other is out on approved leave.

ORIGINAL REPORT: Authorities looking for escaped inmate who stole and crashed bus near Centerville

A manhunt got underway after a Texas inmate serving a life sentence for capital murder escaped by taking a bus and crashing it.