Five people, including two children, are dead and a suspect is on the loose Saturday after a late-night dispute between neighbors escalated into an “almost execution-style” killing in Texas, authorities say.
38-year-old Francisco Oropeza was firing a rifle in his yard late at night when his neighbors asked him to stop, San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers said. The man then went next door with his with an AR-style gun, opened fire and killed five people, including an 8-year-old and a 15-year-old, authorities said.
Capers said “everyone that was shot was shot from the neck up, almost execution-style.”
He also said some of the victims appeared to be protecting children.
Authorities were using scent-tracking dogs and an overhead drone to search for Oropeza on Saturday after police say he fled toward a wooded forest a few miles away.
As the search dragged into the evening, authorities had widened their efforts to as far as “10 to 20 miles” from the murder scene. He said Oropeza may still have a weapon but that he believes authorities have the rifle used in the shooting.
Capers said they found clothes and a phone while combing a rural area that includes dense layers of forest but that tracking dogs had lost the scent.
“He could be anywhere now,” Capers said.
The shooting occurred overnight in the town of Cleveland, about 45 miles north of Houston.
Capers asked residents nearby to avoid the area, due to a heavy police presence.
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According to Capers:
- There were 10 people in the house – four were confirmed dead at the scene, and the 8-year-old child was pronounced dead at a hospital.
- No one else was injured
- Three blood-covered children were found in the home but were uninjured.
- All the victims are believed to be from Honduras.
Investigators believe Oropeza was intoxicated at the time of the shooting. The FBI is assisting in the search, the agency said.
What authorities say happened before the shooting
Family members walked up to the fence and asked the suspect to stop shooting rounds, Capers said. In response, the suspect told them it was his property, Capers said. One person in the house got a video of the suspect walking up to the front door with the rifle, he said.
Authorities have previously been to the suspect’s home, and had “spoke with him about him shooting his gun in the yard,” Capers said.
Who are the victims?
Two of the victims were women and one was a man. Their names were not released. Capers said the 8-year-old was a boy and the victims were between the ages of 8 and about 40 years old.
Rob Freyer, a prosecutor in San Jacinto County, also said a 15-year-old girl was one of the victims.
Two victims were found by the front door. A slain child was in the front room. The final two victims were found laying over two children in a bedroom.
They “were laying over these children … in such an effort as to protect the child,” Capers said.
Mass killings happening more often in US this year
With at least 18 shootings that left four or more people dead since Jan. 1, mass killings in the U.S. could set a new record this year.
Recently, 11 people aged 15 to 19 were injured in a shooting in Texas last week after a prom after-party.
Contributing: The Associated Press