Child slain in Texas mass shooting used to ride bikes with suspect's child, uncle says
The youngest victim of the east Texas shooting that left five family members dead used to ride his bicycle to the school bus stop with the child of the neighbor who is now wanted for carrying out the massacre.
In a telephone interview with NBC News on Monday, the uncle of 9-year-old victim Daniel Enrique Laso said he never exchanged words with the suspected shooter, Francisco Oropesa, 38.
"But my nephew, he always would take his bicycle to where the school bus would stop," Ramiro Guzman said. "Sometimes they went together, my nephew and his child."
"They always went on their bicycles together. They were like friends. And he killed him,” Guzman said of the suspect.
Guzman spoke out as police continued to search for Oropesa, who vanished into the woods after allegedly barging onto the property late Friday in the small, largely rural town of Cleveland and killing all five victims "execution style" with gunshots to the head using an an AR-15 rifle.
Oropesa was allegedly angered after his neighbors complained that he was waking up their baby by firing gunshots on his adjacent property, police said. Sixteen members of Guzman’s extended family — eight adults, eight children — were in the home at the time, police said.
“My son, he died because he was defending his mother," Wilson Garcia, who was Daniel's father, said in an earlier interview.
Daniel's mother, Sonia Argentina Guzman, 25, was also killed. So was an 18-year-old relative, Jose Jonathan Casarez. The other two victims were identified by police as Diana Velazquez Alvarado, 21, and Julisa Molina Rivera, 31. All were believed to be from Honduras.
Guzman said he survived by hiding in a closet with his wife and child, from where he repeatedly called 911. He said Daniel was just 3 when his parents brought him to Texas "for a better future."
"He was a great kid," Guzman said of Daniel.
When the shooting was over, Guzman said he emerged from his hiding place and spotted his mortally wounded nephew.
“My nephew, despite everything, I thought he would survive," Guzman said. "He was writhing on the floor and I said, 'Oh my God, he’s still alive’.”
Guzman said he also saw his slain sister's body.
“To see her the way I did, it’s unbelievable," he said. "I still think maybe she’s going to call me, that I’m going to get to see her again and she’d be like always, strong and supporting us through everything.”
Sonia, he said, was the glue in the family. "She was the best sister. She supported us through everything, absolutely everything," he said.
Guzman said his sister sacrificed everything for a new life in the United States. He said she hadn't seen their mother, who still lives in Honduras, in 10 years.
“Everyone comes here with a plan, with a goal,” Guzman said. "Now my mom is going to see my sister, but in the worst way. She’s going to see my nephew in the worst way.”
As for Daniel, Guzman said he was like a second son to him.
“We were so close throughout our whole lives, ever since he was born," he said. "I would take him to wherever he wanted to go. After school, he liked to come play with my son. As soon as he got home from school he would come play with my son. He was always there waiting. And now …”
“He was very loving, with his siblings, with everyone,” he said. “He never looked for trouble. He was always very loving.”
Casarez "was like a brother to me," Guzman added.
In an earlier interview with The Houston Chronicle, Guzman said the family hailed from the tropical town of La Misión, in the Comayagua region. He said they were drawn to east Texas, in part, because the green lushness of the area reminded them of home.
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com