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Texas manhunt ends after suspect accused of killing 5 neighbors found hiding in laundry pile

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The man accused of killing five of his neighbors with an AR-15 rifle in their Texas home was arrested Tuesday, after a tip led authorities to a house less than 20 miles from where the crimes took place, officials said.

The arrest of Francisco Oropesa, 38, in the city of Cut and Shoot, Texas, marked the end of a massive manhunt that was in its fourth day Tuesday.

A tip called into an FBI line at 5:15 p.m. led to Oropesa’s arrest at 6:30 p.m., Jimmy Paul, the assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s Houston field office, said at a news conference.

“We just want to thank the person who had the courage and bravery to call in the suspect’s location,” Paul said.

Law enforcement officers search for the suspect a few miles from the scene where five people were shot and killed Friday in Cleveland, Texas. Go Nakamura / Getty Images

Oropesa is accused of killing five people, including a 9-year-old boy, in Cleveland, Texas, on Friday night after a member of the family asked him to stop firing his rifle because an infant was trying to sleep, officials have said.

Oropesa will be charged with five counts of murder and is being held on $5 million bond, San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers said.

Capers called Oropesa a coward.

“He was caught hiding in a closet underneath some laundry,” he said Tuesday.

Details about the home where Oropesa was found weren’t disclosed. Officials said the case was still under investigation.

Footage appearing to capture the moments during and after the suspect’s arrest showed a man being led away from a residence in handcuffs and later sitting in the passenger side of a vehicle.

The arrest brought an end to the sprawling search, which involved more than 250 law enforcement officers, the FBI and a reward of $80,000 for information.

Oropesa was arrested four days after he went to his neighbor’s home in the Trails End area of Cleveland, about 45 miles north of Houston, and opened fire, the sheriff’s office said.

Oropesa started shooting after a person complained that gunfire coming from his adjacent property was keeping an infant from sleeping, officials have said.

Wilson Garcia’s wife asked him to go to Oropesa’s residence and ask whether he would stop shooting or shoot somewhere else. The request didn’t seem unreasonable, Garcia said, as they’d been on good terms with Oropesa.

“So we went and told the man to please stop shooting or go continue shooting further away from the house. But he answered by saying he was in his property and could do whatever he wants,” Garcia said.

“I said: ‘OK that’s fine. It’s your property, but could you please move further away or turn it down, that’s all?'” Garcia said. “Then he began insulting us, and we told him we were calling the cops.”

The victims, all believed to be from Honduras, have been identified as: Daniel Enrique Laso, 9; Sonia Argentina Guzman, 25; Diana Velazquez Alvarado, 21; Julisa Molina Rivera, 31; and Jose Jonathan Casarez, 18.

Garcia has identified Daniel as his son and Guzman as his wife and the child’s mother.

More coverage of the deadly shooting in Cleveland, Texas

Officials said that the four adult victims were pronounced dead at the scene and that Daniel died at a hospital. Three other children were found in the home and may have been saved by two women who draped their bodies over them, Capers said. He said he believed 15 rounds were fired.

Cut and Shoot, where Oropesa was arrested Tuesday, is a community of around 1,000 just east of Conroe and around 16 miles west of the Cleveland area where the killings took place.

Investigators had said Sunday that they were running into dead ends, with “zero leads.”

The FBI said Tuesday that law enforcement officers were analyzing “hundreds of pieces of information from all over,” and digital billboards in the Houston area showed Oropesa and the reward. There had been plans to expand the billboards statewide. 

It’s not immediately clear how Oropesa eluded police for days.

Searchers found his cellphone and some of his clothing Saturday, but scent-tracking dogs eventually lost his trail.

Capers also said that authorities seized the rifle used in the attack but that Oropesa may have still been armed with a handgun. 

Maria Rodriguez places flowers Tuesday, May 2, 2023, outside the home where a mass shooting occurred Friday, in Cleveland, Texas. The search for the suspected gunman who allegedly shot five of his neighbors, including a child, after they asked him to stop firing off rounds in his yard stretched into a fourth day Tuesday.
Maria Rodriguez places flowers Tuesday outside the home in Cleveland, Texas, where five people were shot and killed.David J. Phillip / AP

Gov. Greg Abbott said at a news conference Sunday that the gunman had been deported from the U.S. four times and was back in Texas illegally. 

Oropesa’s wife filed a protective order against him last year alleging he beat her, San Jacinto County District Attorney Todd Dillon said. She said he was drunk and hit her with a closed fist, kicked her on the floor and threatened her, Dillon said.

His wife told authorities last year that Oropesa was staying with a sister in Conroe, Dillon said earlier. Conroe is around 6 miles from Cut and Shoot; there was no information that there was any connection to Tuesday’s arrest.

A host of agencies assisted in the search for Oropesa, including the FBI’s Houston field office, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Task Force, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Rangers.

The Marshals Service, the Public Safety Department and the U.S. Border Patrol Tactical Unit went in to the home and arrested Oropesa, officials said. 

Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal Joe Ruiz de Chavez said the killings were “an atrocious crime that devastated this community and this country.”

“This is a very sad time for the victims, and I hope that this will bring them some comfort and they can grieve,” he said.

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