The gunman remains at large.
Families in Cleveland, Texas are on edge after a man armed with an AR-15-style weapon killed five of his neighbors, including an 8-year-old boy, on Friday night. What’s even worse, is now this killer could be anywhere, according to Texas authorities.
The FBI has joined a massive manhunt to track down the suspect in question, 38-year-old Francisco Oropesa, who allegedly opened fire on the family shortly after they asked him to stop shooting his gun outside because their baby was sleeping. “We consider him armed and dangerous,” James Smith, special agent in charge of the FBI Houston office, told reporters Saturday afternoon.
Sadly, this tragedy marks the latest act of violence over a seemingly innocuous interaction. Earlier this month, a 6-year-old girl and her father in Gastonia, North Carolina were shot and wounded by a man who got upset after some kids’ basketball rolled into his yard. That same day, a driver fired at two teen cheerleaders after they mistakenly tried to get into the wrong car in a supermarket parking lot in Elgin, Texas. One of the girls had to be rushed to the hospital, while the other was treated for her gunshot wound at the scene of the accident.
As authorities continue to search for Oropesa, here’s what we know so far, and what other states are doing in response to the overall response to gun violence.
What happened in Cleveland, Texas?
Oropesa allegedly opened fire on his neighbors after they asked him to stop shooting rounds in his yard at around 11 p.m. because the noise was keeping their baby awake, to which he replied, “I’ll do what I want to in my front yard.”
But that wasn’t the end of the confrontation: Doorbell camera footage later showed Oropesa approaching the neighbors’ front door with a rifle, and multiple people were found shot from the neck up “almost execution style” throughout the home.
The member of the family who asked Oropesa to stop firing his gun, Wilson Garcia, lived to give his account. Garcia said he was able to escape through a window of the house. “I thought he was going to follow me,” he said. “But after he couldn’t catch me, he went back to the house to finish them off.”
After hiding at a family member’s house, Garcia returned home to find both of his kids alive after two of the victims wrapped their arms around them to shield them from the bullets. Even now, the father remains in disbelief over what happened.
“I can’t believe what he did. He came shooting inside the house, it’s horrible, it’s appalling,” Garcia told KTRK in Spanish.
Who was killed?
Ten family members were home at the time of the shooting rampage. While five survived, five others were tragically killed. The victims, all who were from Honduras, have since been identified as Sonia Argentina Gúzman, 25; Diana Velázquez Alvarado, 21; Julisa Molina Rivera, 31; José Jonathan Cásarez, 18; and Daniel Enrique Laso-Guzman, 8.
While Texas Gov. Greg Abbott remained silent on the news, Honduran Foreign Minister Enrique Reina demanded that authorities apply “the full weight of the law” against the alleged killer.
Where is Francisco Oropesa?
That’s what law enforcement is trying to figure out now. Authorities initially thought they narrowed Oropesa’s whereabouts within a 2-mile search area but they believe he likely slipped past them after they found his cell phone and some clothing. Search dogs have also lost the suspect’s scent.
In an effort to drum up more leads, the FBI and local authorities are asking for a combined $80,000 reward for any information relating to Oropesa. But, for the time being, residents are being told to “stay inside [and] stay clear” of the crime scene until the investigation is over. “We are getting closer to him every minute of every hour but we know who he is,” San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers told KTRK.
Once caught, Oropesa will face five murder charges. Prior to this horrific attack, he was not unknown to authorities: James Smith, a special agent in charge of the FBI Houston office, said in a press conference that there had been a “couple of calls” to Oropesa’s home in the past for firing weapons.
Part of a larger trend
There has already been a record number of mass shootings in the U.S. so far this year, with more mass shootings than there have been days of the year nationwide, and one happening in Texas alone every 7.5 days. The nonprofit Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as any incident in which four or more people are killed, not including the shooter.
Despite this spike in violence, there doesn’t look to be any federal policy changes in the near future. So far, President Biden’s calls for Congress to pass a federal assault weapons ban have gone unheeded. Meanwhile, some states like Texas that have been at the center of these tragedies continue refuse to pass firearm restrictions, even going so far as push to loosen gun laws. Just two years after the mass shooting in El Paso, Abbott signed bill allowing Texans 21 and older to carry handguns without a license or training. Then, earlier this month, Texas lawmakers declined to vote on a proposal to raise the purchase age for semiautomatic rifles.
Others are taking a different tack. Maryland Gov. Wes Moore is expected to sign a gun control package any day now, and once it takes effect, people will no longer be able to carry their firearms to schools and other sensitive locations. Plus, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed a four-part legislative package just last week that most notably included raising the legal age for buying firearms from 18 to 21. The move came just three days after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill banning assault weapons and handguns, including the AR-15 like the one Oropesa used. It now joins 9 other states with similar bans on assault weapons, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York, as well as D.C., according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. In response, the National Rifle Association has already filed a lawsuit challenging the ban in Washington.
“Inaction against gun violence is unacceptable,” Inslee told reporters after signing the legislation.