CLEVELAND, Texas — Members of a Texas family, allegedly attacked by a neighbor with an AR-15 rifle, called 911 five times and waited 20 minutes for officers to come to their aid, a grieving father said.
And when San Jacinto County sheriff’s deputies arrived, suspect Francisco Oropesa, 38, had escaped and the bodies of five people, including a child, were found in the latest mass shooting to grip the United States.
Oropesa was still on the run Monday morning, and Wilson Garcia, who lost his wife and eldest son in the shooting, said he hopes the suspect is captured alive.
«I don’t want (the authorities) to kill (Oropesa),» Garcia told NBC News on Sunday. «All I want is for them to apprehend him, put him in jail and make him pay for everything he did because it would be too easy if they just killed him and made his pain go away like that.»
A request, then shots
Garcia’s son, Daniel Enrique Laso, was the youngest victim, the San Jacinto County Sheriff’s Office said. He was 9 years old, according to his father. The others killed in the attack were identified as García’s wife, Sonia Argentina Guzmán, 25; Diana Velazquez Alvarado, 21; Julisa Molina Rivera, 31; and Jose Jonathan Casarez, 18, the sheriff’s office said.
Garcia and three other men were playing a parlor game outside their home in Cleveland, Texas, about 45 miles north of Houston, when his wife told him their one-month-old son was crying because of the gunshots coming from the house. of Oropesa. She asked Garcia to go to Oropesa’s residence and ask if she would stop shooting or if he would move her further away from her house.
His wife’s request did not seem unreasonable, Garcia said, since they had been on good terms with the neighbor.
Oropesa had helped him cut down a tree recently, and the two wives «got along very well,» according to the father.
Garcia said he and the other three men went to Oropesa’s house and «respectfully» asked him to reduce or change his target practice.
“So we went and told the man to please stop shooting, or keep shooting further from the house. But he responded by saying that he was on his property and that he could do whatever he wanted,” Garcia said.
“I told him, ‘Okay, okay. It’s your property, but could you move further away or turn it down? That’s all’. Then he started insulting us and we told him we were going to call the police. My wife said, ‘Okay, let’s call the police.’ It took about 20 minutes for the police to arrive and we called five times because the man was very threatening,” she added.
It was not clear if all the 911 calls came before, during or after the shooting.
A representative for the FBI, which has taken the lead in investigating the shooting, could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.
‘My son died because he wanted to protect his mother’
After the denied request to stop shooting, Garcia said he could see Oropesa on his porch, «smoking and drinking something» before «we saw him going into his house to load the gun.»
When Oropesa allegedly approached his home, Garcia said he urged his wife to take refuge inside, but the woman stood her ground.
“I told her to come in and she said she didn’t think the man would shoot her because she was a woman, so she asked me to come in,” Garcia said. «But he just came shooting in, he didn’t say anything, he shot her and the door was wide open. He comes in, room by room, shooting at us.»
Daniel he ran to his mortally wounded motheronly to run the same fate, according to Garcia.
“My son died because he wanted to protect his mother, because when he saw her fall, he ran to where she was. And he (the suspect) had no compassion, seeing a child crying for his mother, ”García said.
“My son died because he was defending his mother. When he saw her on the floor, he ran to her, and that man had no compassion. A boy crying for his mom,” he added.
The father tearfully recalled that one of the victims urged him to flee as soon as his wife, Guzmán, was shot dead.
«One of the people who died saw my wife fall to the ground,» Garcia told Telemundo through tears. «She was dying but she told me to go out the window because my children were already without a mother, and one of them had to stay alive to take care of them.»
Oropesa would have gone from room to room looking for people to kill. Garcia’s brother-in-law and his wife «were miraculously saved» since «they covered themselves with clothes and covered the child’s mouth so he wouldn’t cry,» according to the father.
“He went in and didn’t see them, so he went into the other rooms and started shooting,” Garcia told NBC News, making a shooting gesture with his hand.
Garcia urges suspect to turn himself in
Searchers found Oropesa’s cell phone and some of her clothing Saturday before scent-tracking dogs lost it, authorities said.
Garcia pleaded with Oropesa to surrender.
“I would tell him that I hope he regrets it. She has a son the same age as mine, and what if someone had taken the person he loves the most, like he did me,” Garcia said.
“That if he has any compassion, that he reflect on what he did and that if he regrets it, well, that he turn himself in to the authorities. Because the pain we feel, I don’t wish it on anyone. one, and I don’t even want this pain feeling on him,» he added.
Priscilla Thompson reported from Cleveland, Texas; Maria Piñero from Miami; and David K. Li of New York City.