Law enforcement officers are searching for a man wanted for shooting dead five neighbors in Cleveland, Texas
Law enforcement officers are searching for a man wanted for shooting dead five neighbors in Cleveland, Texas AFP


  • Francisco Oropesa allegedly killed five neighbors in Texas Friday after being asked to stop shooting his gun
  • An I.C.E. official said Oropesa was deported to Mexico four times between 2009 and 2016
  • Texas Sen. Charles Schwertner said the incident calls for the strengthening of border security and immigration policies

The man wanted by police for allegedly killing five neighbors in Cleveland, Texas, Friday had previously been deported to Mexico four times but returned again to the United States illegally, immigration officials said Monday.

The suspect, identified as 38-year-old Mexican national Francisco Oropesa, was shooting a gun in his yard when one of his neighbors, Wilson Garcia, asked him to stop so his baby could sleep.

Oropesa then went inside his house to get an AR-15 rifle and walked over to Garcia's home at about 11:30 p.m. local time. He allegedly shot Garcia's 8-year-old son, wife and three other people, two of whom were women shielding a 6-week-old boy and a 3-year-old girl, according to authorities.

Oropesa then allegedly went after Garcia, but the latter was able to escape through a window and flee.

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) official confirmed that the agency was ordered by an immigration judge to deport Oropesa back to Mexico in March 2009, The New York Times reported. However, he kept illegally returning to the U.S., according to the official.

Oropesa was also caught and removed by I.C.E. in September 2009, January 2012 and July 2016, the official said.

Although the reason for his initial deportation was unclear, the official confirmed that Oropesa was convicted in Montgomery County, Texas, for driving while intoxicated in January 2012 and jailed.

Top leaders in Texas condemned the shooting, which seems poised to reignite debates on immigration issues. Some of them had already begun criticizing the Biden administration's border policies.

"The suspect had been in the United States illegally and had been previously deported four times," Republican Texas Sen. John Cornyn said Tuesday, KXAN reported. "He never should have been in the United States in the first place. As devastating and unimaginable as this story is, it's not entirely unique."

Cornyn was referring to the murder of 32-year-old Kate Steinle, who was shot and killed in 2015 by an undocumented man in San Francisco.

Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was criticized for referring to the five victims as "illegal immigrants," with critics saying that his framing is fueling prejudice against immigrants and that the victims' immigration statuses have not been confirmed.

"It's heartless. It's un-Christian, and it's un-American," said Lydia Guzman, Immigration Committee chair of the League of United American Citizens, according to KXAN. "We can't continue to dehumanize folks because of their legal status. This is nothing but political posturing."

In another statement Monday, Abbott's office explained that unspecified federal officials had told the governor that the criminal and victims were all in the country illegally.

"We've since learned at least one of the victims may have been in the United States legally. We regret if the information was incorrect and detracted from the important goal of finding and arresting the criminal," Abbott's office said.

Texas Sen. Charles Schwertner, who represents San Jacinto County where the shooting happened, said that the shooting is a tragedy that highlights the need for stronger border security and strong enforcement of immigration laws.

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