Sign up for The Brief, our daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice will resume inmate transportation on Monday following a brief pause after a convicted murderer escaped from a prison bus last month and killed five people.
During the pause earlier this week, TDCJ officials say they conducted “a comprehensive review of its transportation procedures” to investigate how the murderer escaped. On Saturday, the agency announced it had found solutions, which include having three officers on a bus, enhancing their search of inmates before they board, upgrading their bus cameras, transporting “high risk” inmates alone and upgrading jail medical facilities to reduce offsite transports.
“The public’s safety is the first duty and highest obligation for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice,” said TDCJ executive director Bryan Collier.
The review was sparked after Gonzalo Lopez, 46, who was serving two life sentences, escaped on May 12. He was being taken from the Alfred Hughes Unit near Gatesville to a medical appointment in Huntsville when he was somehow able to remove his handcuffs, cut through a metal door and attack the bus driver, causing the vehicle to stop. Lopez fled into a wooded area and was on the lam for three weeks.
Authorities say Lopez killed one man and his four grandchildren in Leon County while on the loose. Lopez was apprehended and shot by law enforcement on June 2 in Jourdanton, over 200 miles from where Lopez was originally housed in Gatesville, and 250 miles from where the victims died.
As reported by The Washington Post, authorities believe Lopez killed Mark Collins, 66, and his four grandchildren, Waylon, 18; Carson, 16; Hudson, 11; and Bryson, 11. The Collins family released a statement on Facebook via their pastor, asking for privacy at this time and noting, “These precious people who loved and were loved by so many will never be forgotten.”
Disclosure: Facebook has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.
Join us Sept. 22-24 in person in downtown Austin for The Texas Tribune Festival and experience 100+ conversation events featuring big names you know and others you should from the worlds of politics, public policy, the media and tech — all curated by The Texas Tribune’s award-winning journalists. Buy tickets.