Joseph Christopher Garcia, 47, was executed by lethal injection on 4 December 2018 in Huntsville, Texas for the murder of a police officer while on escape from prison.
On 13 December 2000, Garcia, then 29, escaped from the maximum-security Connally Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), where he was serving a 50-year sentence for murder with a deadly weapon. Garcia made the escape with six other prisoners - Patrick Murphy, 39; Donald Newbury, 38; Michael Rodriguez, 38; George Rivas, 30; Randy Halprin, 23; and Larry Harper. Like Garcia, his six fellow escapees were all serving sentences of 30 years or more for murder or aggravated robbery. They overpowered prison workers, stole guns from the armory, and escaped in a prison pickup that had been modified with a false bottom. They then drove to a nearby store, where Rodriguez's father had left another truck for them.
The escapees, who committed a string of crimes as they trekked northward through Texas, became known nationally as the "Texas Seven." They had left a note behind at the scene of their escape reading, "You haven't heard the last of us yet."
On 19 December, the group robbed a Radio Shack and an Auto Zone in Houston. They also obtained security officers' uniforms from a used clothing store.
On 24 December, the escapees went to an Oshman's sporting goods store in Irving. Armed with weapons and two-way radios, Garcia, Halprin, Newbury and Rodriguez entered the store just prior to closing. Rivas and Harper also entered, masquerading as Oshman's security guards. Murphy waited in a truck outside the store and monitored the police radio frequencies.
Rivas and Harper told the store managers that they were investigating a theft at another Oshman's and asked that all the store's employees be brought together to look at a photo spread. The other men, meanwhile, went through the store, gathering merchandise. Once the employees were gathered together, Rivas drew a gun and announced that he was robbing the store. He instructed the other men to tie the employees up in the store's break room.
While this was happening, Misty Wright, the girlfriend of one of the employees, was waiting outside in her car for the store to close. She saw the employees inside raising their hands over their heads and called a friend, who joined her in her car. They then drove to a nearby restaurant to phone the police.
Irving police officer Aubrey Hawkins was the first officer to arrive at the scene. He drove directly to the back of the store, where he was shot eleven times. Evidence presented at trial showed that he was shot with at least five different guns from at least three directions, and that he died immediately.
The escapees got away with over $70,000 in cash, 44 firearms, ammunition, camping equipment, and the employees' wallets and jewelry.
The Texas Seven committed three more armed robberies as they made their way northward. Rivas bought a recreational vehicle with the stolen money. Posing as a lawman, he also bought body armor from a police supply store.
The men lived in an RV park near Colorado Springs, pretending to be missionaries, for about three weeks. A neighbor at the RV park recognized them after seeing the Texas Seven case profiled on television's "America's Most Wanted" and called police. On 22 January 2001, a SWAT team surrounded the gang in the trailer park. When capture was imminent, Larry Harper killed himself. Rivas, Rodriguez, Garcia, and Halprin were captured. Murphy and Newbury evaded capture that day. Two days later, however, they were cornered at a hotel and eventually surrendered.
Hawkins's gun, as well as guns and merchandise stolen from Oshman's, were found in the mens' possession at the time of their arrest.
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