CLEVELAND, Texas (AP) — A man accused of killing five neighbors in Texas after some of them complained that gunfire was keeping a baby awake was indicted Friday on a capital murder charge that could carry the death penalty.
Prosecutors said they do not yet know whether they will seek the death penalty against Francisco Oropeza, 38, who is a Mexican national and had been deported multiple times in the years prior to the April attack outside Houston.
“I think it’s a little too early for us to make that call,” San Jacinto County District Attorney Todd Dillon said.
Oropeza is scheduled to appear in court in August. Anthony Osso, his attorney, said his client will plead not guilty.
“We expected the capital indictment so there’s no surprise,” Osso said. “We have been contacted by many people in support of Mr. Oropeza’s character. He was extremely well regarded in this neighborhood and often helped others with all types of tasks around their homes. He was a go-to kind of guy for help.”
Police say Oropeza stormed into his neighbor’s house on April 28 after being asked by his neighbors to stop firing his AR-style rifle because a baby was trying to sleep. All five victims were from Honduras, including a 9-year-old boy. One neighbor who lived down the street from said that a few months before the shooting, Oropeza threatened to kill his dog after it got loose and chased the pit bull in his truck.
The shooting happened in the rural town of Cleveland, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) north of Houston. Police say Oropeza fled the neighborhood after the shooting, setting off a widening manhunt that came up empty for days despite more than 250 officers, drones and scent-tracking dogs searching and $80,000 in reward money being offered.
Oropeza was eventually arrested near Conroe, roughly 20 miles (32 kilometers) from the home where the shooting took place.
Oropeza’s domestic partner and one of his friends have also been charged with hindering the apprehension or prosecution of a known felon.