Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has been criticized for his response to a mass shooting that left five people dead in his state.
Authorities appear no closer to catching the suspect, identified as Francisco Oropeza, after more than two days of searching.
Oropeza, 38, is considered armed and dangerous after fleeing the Cleveland, Texas, area on Friday night. Authorities say he entered his neighbors' home and fatally shot five people, including a 9-year-old boy after they had asked him to stop firing rounds in his yard at night because a baby was sleeping.
Abbott, a Republican, announced $50,000 in reward money for information on Sunday, noting in a press release and tweet that the victims were "illegal immigrants." The release also noted that Oropeza was in the country illegally.
I’ve announced a $50K reward for info on the criminal who killed 5 illegal immigrants Friday. Also directed #OperationLoneStar to be on the lookout.
I continue working with state & local officials to ensure all available resources are deployed to respond. pic.twitter.com/SpkUgKqKGe — Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) April 30, 2023
State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat, blasted Abbott's statement, calling it "a new low" and accusing the governor of "continuing to do nothing" to keep Texas safe from gun violence.
Gutierrez, who represents Uvalde, where a teenage gunman killed 19 students and two teachers last year, wrote on Twitter: "Greg, how was an undocumented person able to obtain an AR-15 in the first place? I'll tell you why. It's because you and other Republicans have made safe gun laws nonexistent. I challenge you to show some actual political courage and #DOSOMETHING."
Texas Rep. Veronica Escobar wrote: "They were part of a family, @GregAbbott_TX — and one of the victims was a child. What a disgusting lack of compassion and humanity."
They were part of a family, @GregAbbott_TX — and one of the victims was a child.
What a disgusting lack of compassion and humanity. https://t.co/IVEyTKcXFu — Veronica Escobar (@vgescobar) May 1, 2023
A new low for @GregAbbott_TX, who continues to do nothing to keep #Texas safe from #GunViolence.
Greg, how was an undocumented person able to obtain an AR-15 in the first place? I’ll tell you why. It’s because you and other Republicans have made safe gun laws nonexistent.
I… https://t.co/Quv17VatBf — Senator Roland Gutierrez (@RolandForTexas) May 1, 2023
5 innocent lives lost to gun violence. TX @GovAbbott decides to dehumanize & delegitimize the lives of those killed in this horrific attack by calling them “illegal” immigrants. Just horrible.
Thoughts are with the families and the survivors during this difficult time. https://t.co/mjEqlacc3j — Congressional Hispanic Caucus (@HispanicCaucus) May 1, 2023
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus also hit out at Abbott.
The caucus tweeted: "5 innocent lives lost to gun violence. TX @GovAbbott decides to dehumanize & delegitimize the lives of those killed in this horrific attack by calling them "illegal" immigrants. Just horrible. Thoughts are with the families and the survivors during this difficult time."
New York Rep. Ritchie Torres wrote that Abbott's "hatred for immigrants and love of AR-15s far outweigh his humanity."
Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action, wrote that Abbott is a "racist xenophobe" who "can't bring himself to say a man with easy access to assault rifle [slaughtered] a family and child in his state."
Above, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a news conference on October 17 in Beaumont, Texas. The governor has been criticized for referring to five shooting victims as "illegal immigrants." Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images
Actor George Takei replied to Abbott's tweet: "This is despicable. I would have thought bringing up the immigration status of the innocent victims of this senseless violence would be beneath even you. But I was wrong."
Meanwhile, Carlos Eduardo Espina, an immigrant rights activist, tweeted a photo of an ID apparently belonging to one of the victims, confirming that she was a permanent resident of the U.S.
"But I guess to Greg Abbott, anyone who is from another country is an 'illegal immigrant.' Shameful," Espina wrote.
I just spoke to the husband of one of the victims. He confirmed to me that his wife was a permanent resident of the US. He even sent me a picture of her ID confirming this.
But I guess to Greg Abbott, anyone who is from another country is an ‘ilegal immigrant’. Shameful. https://t.co/O2AphCodlh pic.twitter.com/YjGLdBMtRl — Carlos Eduardo Espina (@cespina1998) May 1, 2023
However, others praised Abbott. "Other politicians should be so forthright - call a spade a spade, and tenaciously pursue the suspect," one person tweeted, while others suggested closing the border.
Another person wrote: "Pretending nothing is happening at the border and focusing on choice of words is beyond dehumanizing. Thank you for putting up money and trying to find the killer. Your actions are stronger than words."
The FBI in Houston has released more images of Oropeza on Twitter, and said it would be referring to the suspect as Oropesa, not Oropeza, going forward to "better reflect his identity in law enforcement systems."
According to The Associated Press, his family lists their name as Oropeza on a sign outside their yard, as well as in public records.
Here are the newest images of Francisco Oropesa and a prominent tattoo on his left forearm.
Going forward, the subject's last name will be spelled "Oropesa" to better reflect his identity in law enforcement systems. This remains a fluid investigation. #ClevelandTXShooting pic.twitter.com/ZWUu0FqoMF — FBI Houston (@FBIHouston) April 30, 2023
The San Jacinto County Sheriff's Office and the FBI have also chipped in reward money, together offering a total of $80,000 for any information about Oropeza's whereabouts.
More than 250 officers from multiple jurisdictions were searching for Oropeza by Sunday evening.
"FBI Houston and other local, state, & federal agencies will not stop assisting SJSO until he is captured and justice is brought on behalf of the 5 victims," the FBI in Houston posted on Twitter.
Newsweek has contacted Abbott's office and the FBI for further comment via email.