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One week into search for fugitive Gonzalo Lopez, perimeter lines appear unclear

Posted at 9:29 PM, May 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-06 15:54:44-04

CENTERVILLE, Texas — Exactly a week ago, the cartel killer Gonzalo Lopez ripped through restraints aboard a prison bus and fled into Leon County.

The search there, just outside of Centerville, has received enormous attention from Texas law enforcement.

Thursday, exactly one week into the manhunt, the perimeter for the search area changed. KRHD set out to navigate what’s different, as authorities are still searching for Lopez.

Though the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has blocked access to major highways in the area, in the early afternoon hours KRHD found no police around to stop vehicles traveling onto County Road 317 from the Interstate 45 access road.

So, we kept going.

A few miles in, KRHD spoke to a resident in a neighborhood just a few miles northwest of the Redland community, Monica Arabie.

“Day one, and I didn’t really think [Lopez] could get this far on foot," she said, looking out from her front porch. "There’s a lot of dense woods. He wouldn’t come here.”

Arabie said her husband had only been stopped by police once this week when driving along CR 317, and her family feels safe.

Eventually, just at the intersection of CR 318 and CR 317, law enforcement did stop our vehicle, after we'd parked just short of the first visible police checkpoint we'd seen so far. They escorted us back to I-45. Not once was KRHD stopped by police prior to that, nor did we see any officers, signs, or barriers to entry along CR 317.

"We are going to change up our strategy just a little bit in the search," TDCJ spokesperson Robert Hurst told media in an early afternoon press conference. "[I]can’t go into too much of the specifics, but we are going to move our search into different parts of the area.”

Hurst stressed that TDCJ still believes Lopez is in the area.

"We are positive we will find him and get him back into custody,” Hurst commented.

Residents like Arabie expressed their gratitude for the hard work and long hours law enforcement officers are putting in to catch Lopez. But as of Thursday afternoon, Arabie said she hadn't been seeing a lot of them near her place. Even if Lopez isn't found soon, she feels all will be well.

“I don’t rely on them for my protection, honestly," she said. "The law will do what they’re going to do, and I’m responsible for my safety.”

TDCJ did inform KRHD later that same day that they will now be stationing officers at the entrance to County Road 317.