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Texas Matters: 'Texas 7' Escapee Set For Execution

Jack Morgan
Texas Public Radio
Joseph Garcia is a member of the "Texas 7." He is on Texas' Death Row.

Joseph Garcia sits on Texas' death row after he was convicted of the murder of Irving Police Officer Aubrey Hawkins.

On this episode of "Texas Matters," we talk to Garcia at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Livingston, just outside of Huntsville, where he is scheduled to be executed on Dec. 4. We also talk to Jeff Spivey, chief of the Irving Police Department, in remembrance of Hawkins.

“I don't understand why I'm on death row," he said. "I mean even the (district attorney) said it himself. You know, Toby Shook.

"He said, 'Hey, listen. You know, we can't prove Mr. Garcia has shot any of the weapons that night.' So if you can't prove that, then what am I here?"

It was Dec. 13 of 2000, when the "Texas 7" escaped from a maximum security prison in Karnes County.

The group, led by George Rivas, used cunning, guile and military precision to drive out of prison before any of the guards realized what was happening. The escape resulted in the largest manhunt in Texas history. Yet, for more than a month, the Texas 7 managed to avoid recapture.

Eleven days after the escape, on Christmas Eve, the Texas 7 resurfaced at a robbery at a sporting goods store in Irving. Disguised as security guards, they overpowered and tied up the employees.

As they were preparing to leave with over 40 guns, officer Hawkins responded to a report of suspicious activity. The escaped inmates opened fire, hitting Hawkins 11 times and ran over his body as the Texas 7 sped away.

While Garcia was there, he said he was still in the store at the time of the shooting. He said he didn't shoot Hawkins, but under Texas' Law of Parties, a non-shooter accomplice is just as criminally liable as the triggerman.

“The law of parties is a difficult issue," he said. "I mean, for most people who don't understand it ... I think it's corrupt and unjust. ... The law provides this state to prosecute and actually find somebody guilty of other people's actions.”

In our interview, Garcia talks about his life growing up with a heroin-addicted mother, the knife fight murder that he committed that initially put him in prison, his public defender that, he said, failed to do his job in court, and about dealing with his execution in less than a week.

But first, Irving Police Chief Jeff Spivey remembers his fallen fellow officer Aubrey Hawkins.

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org or on Twitter @DavidMartinDavi

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi