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250-Officer Manhunt Makes Potential Breakthrough in Hunt for Mexican National Accused of Killing 5

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The search in Texas for a gunman who fatally shot five neighbors with an AR-style rifle entered a third day Monday after authorities widened a dragnet near Houston over the weekend and appealed to the public for tips on the killer’s whereabouts.

On Monday afternoon, authorities in neighboring Montgomery County told residents to stay inside “out of an abundance of caution” near an area that had a heavy police presence following a possible sighting of the suspect. The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office said they had no confirmation the person was 38-year-old Francisco Oropeza.

Oropeza has been at large since the shooting just before midnight Friday in the rural town of Cleveland. By Sunday evening, authorities said more than 250 officers from multiple jurisdictions had joined the manhunt, and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott put up $50,000 in reward money for tips leading to Oropeza’s capture.

“I can tell you right now, we have zero leads,” James Smith, the FBI special agent in charge, said Sunday.

Oropeza is considered armed and dangerous after fleeing the area Friday night, likely on foot. San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers said authorities had widened the search area beyond the scene of the shooting, which occurred after the suspect’s neighbors asked him to stop firing off rounds in his yard late at night because a baby was trying to sleep.

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At a Sunday vigil in Cleveland, Wilson Garcia, who lost his wife and son in the shooting, described the terrifying efforts inside his home by friends and family that night to escape, hide and shield themselves and children after Oropeza walked up to the home and began firing, killing his wife first at the front door.

Police recovered the gun that they said Oropeza used in the shootings. Authorities were not sure if Oropeza was carrying another weapon after others were found in his home.

In total, authorities have put $80,000 in reward money on the table, most of it coming from Abbott.

At an event on Sunday to honor fallen police officers, Abbott said the suspect had been deported four times and had re-entered the country illegally, according to The Houston Chronicle.

San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers said he hoped the reward money would motivate people to provide information and that there were plans to put up billboards in Spanish to spread the word.

Veronica Pineda, who lives across the street from the suspect’s home, said authorities had stopped by her house over the week to ask if they could search her property to see if the gunman might be hiding there. She said she was fearful that the gunman had not yet been captured.

“It is kind of scary,” she said. “You never know where he can be.”

The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.

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