by Matt Clarke
On May 12, 2022, as Texas state prisoner Gonzalo Lopez, 46, was being transported in a prison bus to a medical appointment, he used a “prison-made knife and key” to loosen his restraints. He then cut through the metal cage for high-risk prisoners in which he was riding before stabbing the bus driver, forcing him to stop.
The driver managed to exit the bus, along with the prisoner. But so did an armed guard who had been riding in the back. As he approached, Lopez hopped back into the bus and tried to drive away. When the guard shot out the tires, Lopez stopped the disabled bus and ran into the woods near Centerville in Leon County.
Lopez was known to the state Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) as an affiliate of the Mexican Mafia gang. He was serving two life sentences for capital murder, attempted capital murder, and aggravated kidnapping. TDCJ officials called him “very dangerous.”
There was no trace of Lopez until June 2, 2022, when a man and his grandsons were found murdered at their weekend cabin in Leon County. Police found the body of Mark Collins, 66, and three brothers who were his grandsons, Waylon Collins, 18, Carson Collins, 16, and Hudson Collins, 11. Also found was the body of their cousin, Bryson Collins, 11. But Mark Collins’ Chevy Silverado “farm truck” was missing.
That night, police spotted the truck near Jourdanton, about 200 miles from Collins’ cabin. After disabling the vehicle with a spike strip, they exchanged gunfire with Lopez, and he was killed. TDCJ spokesperson Jason Clark said, “He fired several rounds at officers and was armed with an AR-15 and a pistol.” He added that Lopez’s weapons were believed to be stolen from the cabin.
To any Texas prisoner, the official story had holes. If proper procedure is followed, a prisoner is strip-searched before transport, then restrained with handcuffs and leg shackles before being placed on a bus. A belly chain and a “black box” are added to the restraints if the prisoner is considered as dangerous as Lopez. So how did he manage to remove all those restraints and barriers without being noticed?
A “distraction,” TDCJ said, allegedly caused by 15 other prisoners aboard the bus.
Lopez’s prison file also listed serious infractions, including at least two violent incidents in which other prisoners were injured. Sam Houston State University Professor Mitchel Roth, who studies the prison system, said the incident was “a clarion call for change.”
“[T]o be written up so many times and then have the advantage of being able to go to a doctor in another part of the state — you know, so many red flags there,” Roth said.
Sources: CNN, KHOU, New York Post
As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.
Already a subscriber? Login