The FBI is helping in the manhunt for a gunman accused of shooting and killing five people – including a child – at a Cleveland, Texas, home after neighbors asked him to stop firing his rifle outdoors, officials said.
“We consider him armed and dangerous,” said FBI Houston Special Agent in Charge James Smith. “He’s out there, and he’s a threat to the community.”
Francisco Oropeza, 38, allegedly opened fire on his neighbors Friday night after they asked him to stop shooting a rifle in his yard because a baby was trying to sleep, San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers said Saturday.
After declining their request, the suspect at some point was seen in footage from a doorbell camera approaching the neighbors’ front door with a rifle, according to Capers.
Multiple people were later found dead around the home in different rooms, including two female victims in a bedroom who authorities believe used their bodies to shield two young children who survived, Capers said.
Those killed were shot “almost execution style,” above the neck at close range, the sheriff said.
Investigators initially began tracking Oropeza using his cell phone, but say the trail went cold Saturday evening.
“He could be anywhere now,” Capers said in a Saturday news conference. Cleveland is about 40 miles northeast of downtown Houston.
The victims were identified as Sonia Argentina Gúzman, 25; Diana Velázquez Alvarado, 21; Julisa Molina Rivera, 31; José Jonathan Cásarez, 18; and Daniel Enrique Laso-Guzman, 8.
Five other people who were home during the rampage were not hurt. Three children were found covered in blood and were taken to a hospital, but were not injured, the sheriff said earlier Saturday.
Some of the individuals inside the home had moved there from Houston just days ago, according to the sheriff.
The FBI Houston Field Office is assisting the sheriff’s office in the search, the agency announced in a Saturday tweet.
The attack joins a list of more than 170 mass shootings that have happened in the US so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Both CNN and the archive define a “mass shooting” as a shooting that injured or killed four or more people, not including the shooter.
There had been previous calls for service about the suspect for shooting his rifle in the front yard, the sheriff told reporters Saturday.
The suspect was known to shoot a .223 rifle, according to Capers. Shell casings were also found outside the home after the shooting.
“The victims, they came over to the fence said, ‘Hey, could you mind not shooting out in the yard. We have a young baby that is trying to go sleep,’” Capers said.
The suspect, who had been drinking, responded, “I’ll do what I want to in my front yard,” police said.
Deputies were already on their way to the home for a harassment complaint about 11:30 p.m. Friday when they got multiple 911 calls about an active shooter at the same location, according to the San Jacinto County Sheriff’s Office.
A SWAT team descended on the neighborhood – searching and clearing adjacent properties – and eventually determining that the gunman had fled the scene.
“We don’t believe him to be in the area,” the sheriff said Saturday morning, adding that the suspect was believed to be at least 10 to 20 miles away from the crime scene.
Oropeza’s cell phone was found abandoned, along with articles of clothing, Capers said. “The tracking dogs from Texas Department of Corrections picked up the scent, and then they lost that scent,” the sheriff said.
Authorities found at least three weapons inside the suspect’s home and spoke to the suspect’s wife, the sheriff said.