A cellphone video captured the moment Texas inmate Gonzalo Lopez crashed a prison transfer bus and fled into the woods, sparking an intense three-week manhunt that came to a bloody end Thursday when the escapee was shot dead by cops.
Lopez, 46, who had been on the lam since hijacking the prison bus May 12, was cornered in Jourdanton, Texas, and killed in a police shootout at around 10:30 p.m.
Officers gunned down the wanted fugitive just hours after he allegedly murdered a family of five — including four children — and stole their pickup truck to carry on with his escape.
Lopez, a convicted murderer serving two life sentences, was being taken to a medical appointment on board a prison bus with 16 other inmates when he somehow managed to free himself from restrains, took control of the bus, crashed it and then fled on foot.
Melanie Tieperman was driving with her son in Leon County, Texas, when she came upon the crash scene. A cellphone recording that the woman shared with KAGS-TV appears to show Lopez running into the nearby woods.
“Yo, we saw the inmate! What the heck?” Tieperman’s son, Braxton, exclaims, as a small figure is seen lurking among the trees in the distance.
The boy later observes seeing Lopez running towards a nearby house.
“Whoever is in that house might want to be careful,” he remarks.
Robert Hurst, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, had said Lopez had a history of escaping custody.
“He’s crafty,” Hurst told CBS News. “He’s done this before down in South Texas in Webb County. He hid out for almost nine days.”
Hurst was unable to share any additional information about Lopez’s previous escape and referred The Post’s inquiries to authorities in Webb County, where no one was immediately available to comment Friday morning.
Before Lopez’s killing, he had been named the prime suspect in the murders of an adult and four children inside a weekend cabin in Centerville, about 250 miles from where police ultimately found him.
Officials have not yet identified the victims, only saying that they were originally from Houston and had arrived in rural Centerville Thursday morning.
Jason Clark, spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said it is believed the family was killed just hours after they arrived.
The bodies were discovered at around 6 p.m. by officers performing a welfare check at the request of a concerned relative.
The slain victims had no ties to Lopez, who was a former member of the Mexican Mafia prison gang, according to the authorities.
After more than three weeks on the loose, Lopez ran out of luck when cops observed him driving a white Chevrolet Silverado that was stolen from the quintuple murder scene.
Deputies in Atascosa County tracked down the pickup truck and disabled it with spike strips, causing it to crash into a tree.
Lopez then emerged from the wrecked vehicle and opened fire at pursuing officers, who returned fire, killing the fugitive, said Clark. The 46-year-old had in his possession a handgun and a rifle.
On May 12, Lopez was being transported from the Alfred Hughes Unit near Gatesville to a prison medical facility in Huntsville in a caged area of the prison bus when he broke free from his restraints, cut through the expanded metal of the cage and crawled from the bottom.
He then stabbed the driver, who stopped the bus and got into an altercation with Lopez, and they both eventually got off the bus.
A second officer at the rear of the bus then exited and approached Lopez, who got back on the bus and started driving down the road, the department said.
The officers fired at Lopez and disabled the bus by shooting the rear tire, the department said. The bus then traveled a short distance before leaving the roadway, where Lopez got out and fled into the woods.
Lopez was serving back-to-back life sentences for shooting a Webb County sheriff’s deputy during a traffic stop in 2004, and slaughtering a man with a pick ax in Hidalgo County after holding him for a $40,000 ransom on a drug debt in 2005.
Had he lived, Lopez would have been up for parole for the first time only in April 2045.
With Post Wires