(The Hill) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) office issued a statement retracting his previous statement that claimed all five victims of the Cleveland, Texas, mass shooting were “illegal immigrants.”
Spokesperson Renae Eze said in a statement to The Hill that “federal officials” told the governor’s office the suspect and the five victims killed in the shooting near Cleveland were in the country illegally. She said the office regrets if the information provided earlier was inaccurate and noted at least one of the victims may have been in the U.S. legally.
“We regret if the information was incorrect and detracted from the important goal of finding and arresting the criminal,” Eze said in the statement. “The true focus remains on catching this heinous criminal who killed five innocent people and bringing the full weight of Texas law against him.”
Local and state authorities announced Sunday that federal, local and state authorities will offer a combined reward of $80,000 for the arrest of Francisco Oropesa, who is suspected of killing five people, including an 8-year-old, after shooting into his neighbor’s home last week. The FBI said on Sunday it had “zero leads” in the hunt for Oropesa, urging Texas residents to report any information they may know about the suspect.
When announcing the reward offered by the state of Texas, Abbott’s office said in a statement Sunday that Oropesa “is in the country illegally and killed five illegal immigrants in a shooting Friday night in Cleveland, Texas.” This comment sparked outrage from critics, who said the governor’s statement undermined the lives lost in the shooting.
“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,” the Congressional Hispanic Caucus said in a statement on Twitter.
Texas Democrats also responded to Abbott’s statement, accusing the governor of fearmongering.
“Tweeting this from his campaign account. Using the execution-style murder of 5 innocent souls to fearmonger about migrants and hype his botched ‘Operation Lone Star’ boondoggle,” Texas Democrats said in a tweet. “Completely ignoring the unfettered proliferation of assault weapons in Texas. There are no words.”