CLEVELAND, Texas — Authorities on Monday still had not captured a gunman in Texas who killed five neighbors, and as the search dragged into a third day with false alarms and few apparent leads, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott faced backlash over drawing attention to the victims’ immigration status.
An FBI agent on the scene near Houston acknowledged they have little to go on in the widening manhunt for 38-year-old Francisco Oropeza, who has been deported four times since 2009, but who neighbors say lived on their street for years prior to Friday night’s shooting.
Abbott offered a $50,000 reward over the weekend for any tips that might lead to Oropeza, and while doing so, the three-term governor described all the victims as “illegal immigrants” — a potentially false statement that his office walked back and apologized for Monday. Critics accused Abbott, who has made hardline immigration measures a signature issue in Texas, of putting politics into the shooting.
“We’ve since learned that at least one of the victims may have been in the United States legally,” Abbott spokeswoman Renae Eze said in a statement. “We regret if the information was incorrect and detracted from the important goal of finding and arresting the criminal.”
Eze said information provided by federal officials after the shooting had indicated that the suspect and victims were in the country illegally. Her statement did not address why Abbott mentioned their status in his original statement and she did not immediately respond to questions about the criticism.
More than 250 law enforcement officers from multiple agencies, including the US Marshals, are now part of a growing search that has come up empty despite additional manpower, scent-tracking dogs and a total of $80,000 in reward money on the table. On Monday, a heavy presence of police converged in an area where the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office reported a possible sighting, but later said none of the persons were found to be Oropeza.
It was one of the first times since the shooting that authorities had announced a possible sighting of Oropeza.
“I can tell you right now, we have zero leads,” James Smith, the FBI special agent in charge, said Sunday.
Info says this guy was deported 4 times....but you can rest assured they will never go into a Democrat Congressman's Neighborhood...only yours. ;)
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