Mexican Mafia hitman Gonzalo Lopez was killed in a police shootout after escaping prison and killing five family members
The loved ones of a grandfather and his four grandkids killed by an escaped convict in Texas this week are reeling following their senseless deaths.
On Friday night, community members turned out for a vigil in the Houston suburb of Tomball to mourn the deaths of grandfather Mark Collins, 66, brothers Waylon, 18, Carson, 16, and Hudson, 11, and their cousin Bryson, also 11.
The five family members were slain on Thursday soon after arriving on a weekend visit to the family’s ranch in Centerville, about 100 miles north of Houston, where Mexican Mafia hitman Gonzalo Lopez was apparently hiding out after escaping from a prison transport van in the area three weeks ago.
Lopez killed the family, stole their truck as well as a pistol and AR-15 rifle, and was killed late on Thursday in a shootout with police after an all-points bulletin was issued on the stolen vehicle.
‘These precious people who loved and were loved by so many, will never be forgotten,’ the Collins family said in a statement.
Waylon Collins, 18, played baseball at Tomball High School, where he had just graduated, and also worked as an umpire for Little League games
Brothers Waylon, 18, Carson, 16, and Hudson, 11, (together left) and their cousin Bryson, also 11 (right) were killed alongside their grandfather at the family’s Texas ranch on Thursday
Grandfather Mark Collins, 66, was taking the four boys out to the family ranch for a weekend of fishing, boating, and target shooting
Community members gathered for a vigil on Friday in the Houston suburb of Tomball, where the slain children lived
Collins family pastor Steve Benzer described the the family as one of ‘the greatest character, the deepest faith, and unrelenting kindness and love.’
‘They have treated me, my family and this church with deep generosity as long as they have been here, they have been pillars in this church, and in this community now for over 40 years,’ he added.
‘And we are heartbroken with them over this tragedy that has struck their family,’ he said.
The murders occurred in the small town of Centerville, about 100 miles north of where the family lived in the northwest Houston suburb of Tomball.
‘This is something that you can´t imagine ever to happen in a small community like this,’ said Tuffy Loftin, 61, a pastor in Centerville who knew the family.
Centerville residents had been worried ever since May 12, when Lopez overpowered the officer who was driving him and 15 other prisoners near their community between Dallas and Houston.
Lopez had been the subject of an intensive search since his escape. He was shot dead by officers in Jourdantown, Texas, on June 2
The crashed prison bus that Lopez was traveling in when he escaped on May 12. Lopez was on the loose for three weeks, and may have been hiding on or near the Collins ranch
Mounted police are seen searching the area for Lopez after his escape from a prison bus. Officials said that ‘a serious incident review’ is underway with regard to Lopez’s escape
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice is still investigating how Lopez broke free from his restraints and escaped a caged area of the bus where he had been held.
Following his escape, law enforcement vigorously patrolled Highway 7 and other roads in Centerville, escorting many of the city´s nearly 1,000 residents to their homes to ensure they felt safe.
Jean Davis, 70, who owns a feed and fertilizer store on the east side of town, said her husband wanted her to take a rifle and pistol to work, but she refused.
‘The town has really been on edge, especially that first 10 days when he was out missing and nobody knew where he was,’ said Davis, who lives about 15 miles away in Buffalo.
State troopers, Texas Department of Criminal Justice officers, the U.S. Marshals service and sheriff’s deputies from Leon County – which includes Centerville – searched the area for Lopez for weeks with no luck.
Concerns over his whereabouts were justified: Lopez’s long criminal history included convictions for capital murder, attempted capital murder, kidnapping and aggravated assault.
Lopez was serving two consecutive life sentences when he escaped
A Wanted poster provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice shows Gonzalo Lopez. Authorities say that Lopez escaped from a prison transport bus on May 12
Authorities said he belonged to the Mexican Mafia, which is a prison gang, and was a contract killer for at least two drug cartels.
In a confession to authorities, Lopez said he had been on his way to Laredo to kill a restaurant and bar owner for the Mileno drug cartel from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, in 2004 when he became embroiled in a shootout with deputies who tried to stop his vehicle.
Lopez escaped to Mexico with the help of the Mexican Mafia.
In March 2005, Lopez said he was contracted by La Mana drug cartel from Tamaulipas, Mexico, to kidnap a man named Lupe Ramirez from Weslaco in South Texas because he owed the cartel $40,000, according to court records.
Lopez and another person kidnapped Ramirez and left him ‘hog tied in an outside room of my mom´s residence’ as they went to pick up money and marijuana that Ramirez´s family had left for them, according to court records.
Lopez later bludgeoned Ramirez’s head with a pickaxe and buried his body in a desert.
Lopez had been serving a life sentence for capital murder for Ramirez´s death and a life sentence for attempted capital murder for the 2004 shootout with deputies, when he escaped from the prison bus.
Grandfather Mark Collins was taking his grandkids to the family ranch when they were ambushed and killed
Authorities maintained nearly 40 roving patrols, believing he remained in the area around Centerville, possibly entering unoccupied structures to look for food, water and clothing, said Jason Clark, spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
At around 6 p.m. on Thursday, authorities went to a home near Centerville for a welfare check and discovered five bodies.
In a statement, their family identified the dead as 66-year-old Mark Collins, and his four grandsons: Waylon Collins, 18; Carson Collins, 16; Hudson Collins, 11; and Bryson Collins, 11. Waylon, Carson and Hudson were brothers and Bryson was their cousin.
Waylon graduated from high school last week, according to the grandfather’s brother-in-law, who posted on Facebook about the murder.
He described the loss of his family members as ‘unbearable.’
According to a Facebook post from the Tomball Little League, the oldest grandson was an umpire.
Collins family pastor Steve Benzer (above) said the family was one of ‘the greatest character, the deepest faith, and unrelenting kindness and love’
People gather for a community vigil at Tomball High School for the five members of an area family who were killed by an escaped prisoner Friday, June 3, 2022 in Tomball, Texas
At a Friday afternoon news conference, Andy Kahan, the director of victim services and advocacy for Crime Stoppers of Houston, called the family’s killing ‘absolutely one of the most gut-wrenching scenarios that I’ve dealt with and I’ve seen a lot and been through a lot.’
The Tomball school district in suburban Houston said Friday that the grandchildren were students in its district.
Loftin, a pastor at the Cowboy Church of Leon County, said he used to go to the family’s ranch, which also features a ‘beautiful fishing lake and a pier,’ to help with cattle management. He called them ‘good, salt of the earth people.’
Authorities believe Lopez confronted the family on Thursday. The Leon County Sheriff´s Office has not specified how they were killed.
Authorities say Lopez took several firearms from the home as well as the family’s white Chevy truck and fled.
Law enforcement spotted him in the stolen truck just before 10pm in Atascosa County, south of San Antonio.
Officers with Jourdanton police used spike strips to flatten the truck’s tires, but Lopez kept driving, firing the rifle through a truck window before hitting two telephone poles and a fence, said Atascosa County Sheriff David Soward.
Lopez ‘exited the stolen pickup truck armed with a rifle and handgun and reportedly fired at officers,’ Soward said. Four officers returned fire, killing Lopez.