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Prisoner’s Escape Triggers Suspension of Texas Inmate Transport

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Bus where Gonzalo Lopez stabbed a guard and escaped. | Image by NBC News

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The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDJC) has temporarily suspended inmate transport following the escape of a violent inmate last month.

The agency is evaluating its processes and conducting “a comprehensive review of its transportation procedures,” TDCJ stated to ABC13, including an internal Serious Incident Review.

Gonzalo Lopez, 46, was on a prison transport bus with 15 other offenders for medical checkups in Huntsville on May 12, according to The Dallas Express. Using a key, Lopez allegedly slipped out of his shackles and escaped the cage holding him before attacking the bus driver with a knife. 

The driver sustained slashings to his hand and chest, but they were non-life-threatening injuries. He and a second officer who had exited the bus fired shots at the bus as Lopez drove away, causing Lopez to crash the vehicle. He then escaped into a nearby wooded area. 

Lopez led the authorities on a massive manhunt that lasted three weeks. While on the loose, he is believed to have fatally stabbed a family of five in Centerville, Texas, before being spotted just south of San Antonio, Texas, on June 2. A brief chase ended in police killing the escaped inmate in a shootout.

Among the deceased were Mark Collins, 66, and his grandsons Waylon Collins, 18, Carson Collins, 16, Hudson Collins, 11, and Bryson Collins, 11.

TDCJ said it “also intends to bring in an outside firm to conduct an independent review to identify factors that may have led to the escape of (Gonzalo) Lopez.”

State Sen. John Whitmire, who chairs the TDCJ Committee, wants prison officials to mandate three armed correctional guards on a bus transporting violent, high-risk offenders and add a trailing vehicle. The agency presently merely requires two officers on the bus, with no requirement for a trailing car.

Lopez was sentenced to life in prison for capital murder after bludgeoning a South Texas man in 2005 with a pickax and burying his body in a desert. He was eventually convicted of attempted capital murder for that contract killing and given a second life term later for attempting to kill a police officer.

A Mexican Mafia prison gang member, Lopez has a lengthy criminal record dating back to 1995, including allegations of capital murder, attempted capital murder, kidnapping, aggravated assault, and narcotics offenses.

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