1 year after Texas inmate escape residents still shaken by devastating events

KBTX News 3 at Six Weekday EXTENDED(Recurring)
Published: May. 12, 2023 at 6:34 PM CDT
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CENTERVILLE, Texas (KBTX) - Friday marks one year since a Texas inmate escaped a Texas Department of Criminal Justice bus in Centerville, leading to the murder of five people and the inmate’s death.

Cartel hitman, Gonzalo Lopez, was serving a life sentence in prison for capitol murder. After he escaped on May 12, 2022, he spent nearly a month on the run hiding out in rural Leon County.

Lopez killed five people, a grandfather and his four young grandsons, at their vacation home in Centerville nearly 3 weeks after his escape. Authorities tracked the inmate, who was fleeing south, and he was then killed near San Antonio in a shootout with law enforcement.

It’s a situation many residents and visitors say still leaves them shaken, one year later.

Tanya McCoy says she remembers the day Lopez escaped very clearly.

“My granddaughter lives around here,” said McCoy. “We take vacation here. When there’s something going on, I’m always aware of what’s going on down here. When we heard about the escape, we had to check on all the family. Make sure everyone is ok. You know, just trying to find out what was going on and where we need to be, if anywhere, to help.”

McCoy said it’s hard to forget about the victims of this tragic event.

“That family. For them to come out here and try to go to a quiet secluded place and get some reset. For it to happen like it did, it’s real unfortunate,” said McCoy. “It’s scary and sad. We’re coming into a different time. Its real unnerving when you get out here and things like that happen. It’s just unexpected. Since it’s a year ago today, we hope we can keep someone from doing that again.”

Multiple residents, who wished to remain anonymous, agreed with McCoy. They told KBTX that adding security into their homes became a priority, no longer feeling safe in the small-town rural area.

KBTX reached out to TDCJ for an update on Friday. They chose not to comment on the anniversary and pointed to incident reports that came out almost six months later as progress.

“Places like this, you like to stop in, check out things and move around and talk to people,” said McCoy. “But, now you don’t. Everybody is on guard. Which, they should be.”

Serious incident reviews from both the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and CGL Companies, a criminal justice consulting firm, blame a series of missteps and failures that led to the escape of convicted killer Gonzalo Lopez and the subsequent senseless murder of Mark Collins and his four grandsons Waylon, Carson, Hudson, and Bryson.

In total, 28 Texas Department of Criminal Justice employees broke or outright ignored security policies. Trafficking, falsifying documents, advanced notice of transports, and search issues were all violations mentioned in the reports.

For KBTX’s extensive coverage on the escape and the aftermath, click here.