Gonzalo Lopez's escape from prison bus aided by staffing shortages and security lapses, TDCJ finds

ByShelley Childers and Derrick Lewis KTRK logo
Friday, December 9, 2022
Inmate escape aided by staffing shortages, lapses, TDCJ report reads
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For the first time, we are getting a glimpse inside the prison bus that failed to keep inmate Gonzalo Lopez held before he managed to escape.

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (KTRK) -- Gonzalo Lopez took advantage of an undermanned security force, as well as lapses in the security system, to make his escape from the Texas prison transport bus that was supposed to take him for a medical appointment, according to report findings released on Thursday.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice released its final 53-page report into the convicted murderer's flight from justice a day after an independent review by the Houston Chronicle and the Marshall Project made similar determinations.

The TDCJ report, though, offers a first glimpse of the inside of the bus and Lopez's seat.

This report points out failures that started hours before he actually got on the bus. Early in the morning of May 12, an officer escorted Lopez from his cell. The officer carries a bag of items for Lopez and drops it off in front of another inmate's cell at Lopez's request.

The report says he's carrying his mattress and blanket in the bag, but the drop-off is a violation of TDCJ's policies.

SEE ALSO: Investigative reporters find failures at TDCJ led to deadly prisoner escape

An officer put a cuff protector on Lopez that goes between the handcuffs to stop inmates from having access to the keyhole on the cuffs. An investigation found some cuff protectors did not fully cover the keyholes, which may have allowed him to manipulate the cuffs in his escape.

Shortly after, Lopez goes past a device that screens inmates for any metal on or in their body. This would have been required for Lopez, but the report points out that this device was not used on him.

At one point, the officers leave the inmates unsupervised on the bus, which is also a violation, because TDCJ says at no point during the transport should inmates be left unattended.

While on the bus, the report states Lopez showed other inmates two long metal weapons with a string tied to them and what looked like a handcuff key in his mouth.

Inmates on the bus began making loud noises, rapping, banging, and blocking the view of another officer in the back of the bus, while Lopez spent 90 minutes breaking through the bottom of a restrictive compartment using two metal weapons.

Among the 19 recommendations the report makes, one is to do away with letting inmates know in advance of their transport date.

They also recommended strip searches and notification that inmates are receiving certain publications.

In this case, Lopez ordered serval publications regarding survival techniques, weapons manufacturing, and manipulation. Those materials were denied, but no administrators were notified of the attempted delivery.

Lopez would remain at large for 21 days, during which investigators said he killed five members of the Collins family: Mark Collins, 66; and his grandsons Carson, 16; Hudson, 11; Waylon 18; and their cousin Bryson, 11.

Law enforcement caught up with Lopez in Atascosa County, which is outside of San Antonio, where the 46-year-old died exchanging fire with officers.

Tonight at 10 p.m. on ABC13, Eyewitness News gives you a timeline of the failures found that led to a convicted murderer's escape. You'll also see the images uncovered to the public for the first time.