According to two reviews of the incident that were made public on Thursday, several security flaws including insufficient strip searches, improperly used restraints, a lack of staff, and an atmosphere where correctional officers became complacent contributed to the Texas inmate’s escape in May, which resulted in the deaths of five people.
Gonzalo Lopez, 46, managed to cut through a caged part of the prison bus on May 12 during an escape in which he was able to liberate himself from his restraints. Three weeks passed with him unhindered. After killing Mark Collins, 66, and his four grandkids — Waylon Collins, 18, Carson Collins, 16, Hudson Collins, 11, and Bryson Collins, 11 on the family’s ranch close to Centerville, which is situated between Dallas and Houston, Lopez was fatally shot by authorities on June 2.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice, or TDCJ, investigated the escape both internally and externally by hiring a firm to carry out an impartial investigation. According to both investigations, Lopez’s companions on the bus and the correctional officers who worked at the Hughes Unit, where he was held, violated protocol by failing to conduct a thorough strip search of Lopez and checking that his handcuffs were properly fastened and unaltered.
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According to the reports, if proper searches had been conducted, they probably would have discovered two 8- to 10-inch metal weapons that Lopez used to cut through the metal grating of a security door, enabling him to overtake the driver, as well as what appeared to be a handcuff key that he at one point concealed in his mouth.
According to an independent investigation carried out by Miami-based CGL Companies, “the fact is that if one of these actions been taken in line with existing policy, it is likely that the escape could have been avoided.”
TDCJ discovered various mistakes throughout its internal review. The Body Orifice Security Scanner, sometimes known as the “BOSS chair,” which is intended to quickly find metallic contraband inside inmates’ body cavities, was not used on Lopez by correctional staff.
Lopez’s leg shackles were applied incorrectly, leaving them free. Lopez may have escaped by using the keyhole since a device meant to prevent inmates like Lopez from accessing it was not placed correctly and did not cover it. Two cops had also fabricated search logs that falsely claimed Lopez’s cell had been searched when it had not.
Bryan Collier, the executive director of TDCJ, stated in a statement, “Public safety is the basic objective of TDCJ, and as an organization, we failed to accomplish that mission.” The agency has made a concerted effort to hold itself accountable, pinpoint the mistakes that allowed the escape, and implement measures to make sure it never occurs again.
According to the reports by TDCJ and CGL Companies, the outside reviewer, Lopez, who had died for Mexican drug cartels, asked some of the other 15 convicts on the bus whether they were “ready to rock and roll” and tried to convince them to join him.
According to the records, one prisoner first responded “yes,” but then changed his mind after learning that Lopez intended to murder the two officers on the bus, take the bus to Interstate 45, rob and murder the driver, and then drive to San Antonio until the search was cut back.
Both reviews concluded that employees at the Hughes Unit “had grown complacent and violated security measures in favor of hurriedly and cursorily performing tasks.” These breakdowns appear to have become standard and a matter of daily practice rather than isolated incidents,” according to CGL’s assessment.
CGL stated the escape also could have likely been averted if workers at the Hughes Unit “would have scanned Lopez in the BOSS chair before to transport, a task that would have added less than a minute onto the process.”
Many of the results reached in the two reviews’ investigations, which were revealed earlier this week by the Houston Chronicle and The Marshall Project, are comparable to those of the two reviews. The joint investigation also revealed that despite signs Lopez was hiding out in the Centerville area, authorities failed to alert locals that Lopez might still be in the area and that the first police officer on the scene following the bus accident didn’t pursue or attempt to shoot Lopez as he fled.
The TDCJ and CGL reports make passing note of the Collins family’s deaths, but they don’t elaborate on whether Centerville residents ought to have been alerted when Lopez’s DNA was discovered inside a burglarized cabin on May 31.
Collins and his four grandsons were killed on June 2 and perished from a gunshot, stab, and force injuries. After killing the family, according to the authorities, Lopez stole a truck, an AR-15-style rifle, a pistol, and their ranch. He then drove the truck about 220 miles (350 kilometers) south of Atascosa County. Police shot and killed him there.
The Texas agency has been informed by the Collins family’s lawyers that a lawsuit about the deaths will be brought against it. Following an inquiry, TDCJ took disciplinary action against more than 20 employees and managers. Since the escape, the organization has increased security requirements, started installing video surveillance equipment on buses, and increased the needed number of guards to three per transport bus.
Additionally, CGL made several suggestions, including that TDCJ redesign its buses for improved security and create plans to lower worker shortages. The Hughes Unit had 43% open positions for correctional officers in the month before Lopez’s escape.