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Search for Gonzalo Lopez | Largest concentrated manhunt in nearly 20 years continues in East Texas

A TDCJ spokesperson said the search for 46-year-old Gonzalo Lopez is its largest concentrated manhunt since 2004 or 2005.

HOUSTON — The largest manhunt in recent Texas Department of Criminal Justice history was still going on in East Texas on Sunday.

A TDCJ spokesperson said the search for Gonzalo Lopez is the largest concentrated manhunt since 2004 or 2005.

The escape

Lopez, 46, stabbed a guard in the hand and ran from a crashed prison bus on Thursday in Leon County.

RELATED: 'Stay in your homes': $50,000 reward for 'very dangerous' escaped killer still on the loose in East Texas

Lopez was being transported Thursday from the Alfred Hughes Unit outside of Gatesville in central Texas to a prison medical facility in Huntsville when he was able to get loose and stab the bus driver in the hand and chest. He drove off in the bus but didn't get far thanks to another guard who shot out its back tires with a shotgun.

The state highway where the TDCJ bush crashed remained closed over the weekend and authorities continued to urge people to stay away from the area near Centerville, which is about 115 miles north of Houston.

Lopez is serving back-to-back life sentences for shooting at a Webb County, Texas sheriff's deputy in 2004 and killing a man with a pickax in Hidalgo County after holding him ransom on a drug debt.

RELATED: This isn't the first time escaped convict Gonzalo Lopez has successfully gotten away from law enforcement

It's not the first time Lopez has managed to hide from law enforcement for an extended period of time. In 2004, he was able to run away from a police chase in South Texas and stayed hidden with the help of a cartel associate, he told investigators at the time.

The search

On Sunday, officials said they think Lopez is still hiding out in the area west of Centerville.

RELATED: 'No reason to believe he has left the area.' Search for escaped Texas inmate continues

While there haven't been any sightings of Lopez, investigators said there's no evidence that he has left the area.

"We have no reason to believe he has left the area, there is no evidence to support that, at this time," Leon County Sheriff's Office representatives said Saturday in a social media post.

Authorities said they're concentrated on searching a triangular area from Highway 7 westbound to Highway 320 and North Highway 320 to Highway 319, which runs back to Centerville and I-45. The search area spans more than 100 square miles of East Texas countryside between Centerville, the town of Marquez to the west, and Buffalo to the north.

Investigators said they have investigated a few false alarms.

Who's searching

TDCJ officials said there are officers on horseback as well as K-9 units at the search scene.

The search will continue until Lopez is taken into custody.

“We cannot thank enough the state, regional and local law enforcement agencies who are assisting the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in our search for Gonzalo Lopez,” TDCJ Executive Director Bryan Collier said. “With these resources, we are confident that we will locate him and have him back in our custody.”

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