The leader of the fugitive gang known as the "Texas 7" was executed Wednesday
for killing a suburban Dallas police officer during a robbery 11 years ago
after organizing and pulling off Texas' biggest prison break.
George Rivas, 41, from El Paso, received lethal injection for gunning down
Aubrey Hawkins, a 29-year-old Irving police officer who interrupted the gang's
holdup of a sporting goods store on Christmas Eve in 2000. The seven inmates
had fled a South Texas prison about two weeks earlier.
The gang was caught in Colorado about a month after the officer's death. One
committed suicide rather than be arrested. Rivas and 5 others with lengthy
sentences who bolted with him were returned to Texas where they separately were
convicted of capital murder and sentenced to die.
Rivas became the 2nd of the group executed.
"I do apologize for everything that happened. Not because I'm here, but for
closure in your hearts," Rivas said Wednesday evening in a statement intended
for Hawkins' family. "I really do believe you deserve that."
The slain officer's relatives were absent, but 4 officers who worked with him
and the district attorney who prosecuted the case attended on his family's
behalf. They stood in the death chamber watching through a window just a few
feet from Rivas.
The inmate thanked his friends who were watching through another window and
said he loved them. A Canadian woman whom Rivas recently married by proxy, also
"I am grateful for everything in my life," Rivas said. "To my wife, I will be
waiting for you."
10 minutes later, at 6:22 p.m., he was pronounced dead.
More than 2 dozen police officers in uniforms stood quietly in a line outside
the Huntsville prison during the execution, then walked in unison to stand
behind the state criminal justice spokesman as he announced Rivas' death.
Texas' parole board voted 7-0 this week to reject a clemency petition for
Rivas. No 11th-hour appeals were made to try to head off the execution, the 2nd
this year in the nation's most active death penalty state.
Rivas and accomplices he handpicked for the escape broke out of the Texas
Department of Criminal Justice Connally Unit, about an hour south of San
Antonio, on Dec. 13, 2000. They overpowered workers, stole their clothes, broke
into the prison armory for weapons and drove off in a prison truck.
They left behind an ominous note: "You haven't heard the last of us yet."
While out of prison, they supported themselves by committing robberies.
Hawkins was shot 11 times and run over with a stolen SUV driven by Rivas as the
gang held up a sporting goods store closing on the holiday eve. They drove off
with loot that included $70,000 in cash, 44 firearms and ammunition for the
They were arrested a month later in Colorado, ending a six-week nationwide
manhunt. One of the fugitives, Larry Harper, committed suicide as officers
In 2008, accomplice Michael Rodriguez, 45, who at the time of the breakout had
a life term for arranging the slaying of his wife, ordered his appeals dropped
and was executed. The 4 others remain on death row awaiting the outcome of
"Today is not about George Rivas," said Toby Shook, the former Dallas County
assistant district attorney who prosecuted Rivas and the others for Hawkins'
death. "Today is about justice for Aubrey Hawkins and Aubrey's fellow police
Rivas planned the escape while serving 17 life sentences for aggravated
kidnapping and aggravated robbery and another life sentence for burglary.
One of his trial lawyers, Wayne Huff, has said Rivas picked accomplices for the
breakout "who probably were more dangerous than he was" and failed to consider
they might get caught doing robberies.
"When that cop pulled up, no one knew what to do," Huff said, calling the
officer's slaying "just a tragic situation."
Rivas and 2 other members of the fugitive gang were arrested at a convenience
store near a trailer park in Woodland Park, Colo. 2 others were in a motor home
at the trailer park, where Harper shot himself to death. The last 2 were
apprehended at a motel in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The men had told the people who ran the RV park they were Christian
missionaries from Texas, but a neighbor recognized them as the case was
profiled on the "America's Most Wanted" TV show and called police.
The 4 "Texas 7" members still awaiting execution are Patrick Murphy Jr. 49;
Joseph Garcia, 40; Randy Halprin, 34; and Donald Newbury, 49. Newbury was set
for injection in early February but was spared, at least temporarily, by a U.S.
Supreme Court order.
Rivas becomes the 2nd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas
and the 479th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on December 7,
1982. Rivas becomes the 240th condemned inmate to be put to death since Rick
Perry became governor in 2001, meaning that Perry has now been governor for
more than 1/2 of all executions in Texas in the modern era.
Rivas becomes the 6th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA
and the 1283rd overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.
(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)