A vast search was underway in Texas on Monday for the man suspected of shooting dead five neighbors, including a nine-year-old boy, after they asked him to stop firing his rifle in his yard late at night.

The FBI in Houston said that more than 250 law enforcement officers from a dozen agencies were "actively searching" for the man, Francisco Oropesa, a 38-year-old Mexican national.

Oropesa is accused of attacking his neighbors on Friday night in the small town of Cleveland, in southeastern Texas, after they allegedly asked him to stop shooting his semi-automatic AR-15 because the noise was keeping a baby awake.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the capture of Oropesa, who he said was "in the country illegally."

The short statement by Abbott, a Republican, also referred to the suspect as having "killed five illegal immigrants," sparking immediate criticism on social media over his focus on the victims' immigration status.

"Five human beings lost their lives and Greg Abbott insists on labeling them 'illegal immigrants,'" tweeted Julian Castro, the former Democratic mayor of the Texas city of San Antonio.

On Monday, Abbot's office walked back his comments, saying in a statement carried by US media that "one of the victims may have been in the United States legally."

The victims were originally from Honduras.

Abbott also said he would "continue working with state and local officials to ensure they have all available resources to respond to this horrific crime."

"Our hearts go out to the families and loved ones of the five victims that were taken in this senseless act of violence," he added.

CNN reported that Oropesa had been deported from the United States at least four times since 2009, citing a source from US immigration authorities, adding that his current immigration status was unclear.

Greg Capers, the sheriff of San Jacinto County, where the shootings took place, said his thoughts were with the slain "little boy," whose age was previously stated as eight.

"I don't care if he was here legally," Capers told reporters over the weekend. "I don't care if he was here illegally. He was in my county. Five people died in my county and that is where my heart is."

- 'I'll do what I want' -


The FBI offered an additional $25,000 reward for Oropesa.

Capers described a horrifying scene when the authorities arrived at the victims' residence after receiving a call about "harassment" around 11:30 pm Friday.

Bodies were strewn from the front door to an inside bedroom, where two deceased women were found lying on top of two traumatized children who survived the massacre.

"In my opinion, they were actually trying to take care of the babies and keep them babies alive," Capers told ABC's Houston station KTRK.

All the victims had been shot "from the neck up, almost execution style, basically in the head," the sheriff said.

Several residents were in critical condition with multiple gunshot wounds.

Capers said the suspect "had been drinking" and allegedly told his neighbors "I'll do what I want to in my front yard," before barging into their house and opening fire.

The Honduran foreign minister, Enrique Reina, called for the gunman to face "the full weight of the law."

In response to yet another US mass shooting, White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Monday that "the president believes prayers alone are not enough."

"Congress must act," Jean-Pierre said. "Because what makes tragedies like this one all the more heart-wrenching is the fact that it is entirely within our power to take these weapons of war off our streets."

The Texas killings appeared to be the latest in a series of US shootings spawned by normally banal interactions: a teenager mistakenly knocking on the wrong door, a cheerleader accidentally stepping into the wrong car, someone driving into the wrong driveway, a ball rolling into a neighbor's yard.

There have been more than 180 mass shootings -- defined as four or more people wounded or killed -- so far this year in the United States, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

With more firearms than inhabitants, the United States has the highest rate of gun-related deaths of any developed country: 49,000 in 2021, up from 45,000 the year before.