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Irving, Texas Police Dept. Holds News Conference On Hunt for Seven Escaped Convicts

Aired January 5, 2001 - 11:00 a.m. ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to start on a much more serious note, and that is coming out of Texas. It's been more than three weeks on the run: A pack of escaped convicts may have tipped its hands. Two of seven inmates who broke out of a Texas prison could have been spotted.

Let's listen in for the latest.


OFC. DAVID TULL, IRVING, TEXAS POLICE: ... Texas Rangers, U.S. Marshal Service, FBI and ATF and all these other agencies are involved. Again, we're working together very well, and I believe we're coming together on this case.

The -- one more -- just a little piece of business. We're going to -- "America's Most wanted," I know that's not everybody's channel, but we're -- that's going to run Saturday night. So if everybody check their local listings, find out when that's going to be and be sure and tune into that. There may be some good information on there that will help this case and get the North Texas area, particularly, attention, and Texas in general, keep these tips coming in.

One of the things we're going to come up with today is some recent -- or more up-to-date sketches on these seven suspects. One of the people I'd like to thank is Shirley Timmons (ph) with the Texas Ranger. She's worked -- I didn't expect to have what I have today to give you all. I expected one or two. She has worked very hard on this, and diligently, and we've got sketches of all the suspects at this time to release to you.

With all that said, there's one other thing -- a couple things I need to clarify. There's some information out about the weapons taken from Oshman's that, again, we don't want to have anything out there that's going to unduly stress out the general public and the citizens. Again, these people are definitely armed and dangerous. We don't want people to approach them. We want the calls and the tips to come in. I'm not going to go in-depth on exactly what type of weapons, but as you're aware that there was numerous weapons taken from the Oshman's store.

And to clear that up some, I just want to let you know it was a combination of handguns, which were -- some were revolvers, some were semiautomatic, and several what we consider long guns. That basically means that they're shot guns and some rifles. None of these rifles that were taken were high-powered weaponry. Just give you for instance, such as a .22-caliber. So, again, hopefully that will help clarify some of it. There's no need to list out every single one, brand and type things like that.

The next thing, again, we're getting a lot of questions on the blood that was found inside the suspect vehicle when it was recovered the night of the shooting. That blood, again, we described it before as being in a quantity that led us to believe that one or more of the suspects had suffered injury. The lab test have come back on that and the clarification has been made that, yes, some of that blood was that of Ofc. Hawkins. We also had a total of three source of that blood. Again, Ofc. Hawkins was one source, two others is yet unidentified. We're working on that now to try to exactly nail down who it was. So, with that being said, again, now we have very good reason to believe two of the suspects possibly were injured during -- at some point.

Again, that hopefully clears some of that up. I don't mean to move too fast. I'll take some questions here in a minute, but I know that your time is just as valuable as -- you know, we're all working very hard on this.

That leads us up to the -- I'm going to have to set this down. I'm fixing to show you all the sketches that were drawn up. These are very good representations of the suspects taken from various sources, witnesses, that type thing. There are some key points I need to point out on some of these photographs -- I say photographs -- on these sketches that may help assist the citizens.

One of the things that we're going to leave to your own judgment is the application of ball cap. I don't know that we want to physically put ball caps on any of these individuals, but you can leave that to your own imagination, you know, what it would like if this part was covered, that type thing. So rather than putting an erroneous image in the public's mind, we thought this would be the best way to do it.

Let's see. I'll just go over to the board now. If you all would help me out with that. You all may have to shuffle a little bit.

While they're putting that up, one of the things I'm going to -- well, I'll go into where you can get these. I scanned them this morning, I've made them available. I'll have them on my Web site as soon as we get this done. I'll go in and upload those. I'm going to have to step away from the -- well, I'm going to move this just a little.

OK, what we've gone here is a representation. Again, we feel these are very, very accurate. There are some things that are a little bit different from the original pictures, particularly like on Patrick Murphy. When you compare the photos we had, he's obviously hollowed out and lost some weight. So there's a thinner representation here, a little bit of hair difference. One particular, if you'll notice on Joseph Garcia, just to clarify, this is not an error. That's a -- been described to me as a mole of some sort, type of a skin affliction there.

Larry Harper. You see some smudging around the lip. What that is, been described to me as some type of infection. I don't know if it's a cold sore or whatever, but apparently it's rather vivid. If it's -- it may come and go. I don't know about that, but at this time that's the way we represent him, is with that. It's not highlighted that much on there unless you get real close to it, but that's a very definite identifier, I believe.

Let's see. Again, what you'll see mostly different on here is some weight loss or weight gain, a little bit of hair difference. Again, I know I told you all that we were going to do some with -- I thought we were doing it with beards and ball caps. Again, the longer line of thinking on that is it may be an improper representation, so we figured this is best to stick with this.

Again, when you pull this up on the Web site that I loaded it up on, I didn't have time to put all the height, weight, et cetera on there. It's been brought to my attention that some outlets may not have been running the height and weight categories. Weight is not quite as important to me as what height is. Height won't change. So if we can make sure to get that out as another identifier.

The -- let's see. If you -- anybody that's here with me, have you all noticed anything that I need to point out particularly?

QUESTION: Are those glasses on Harper there, Dave?

TULL: Let's see. Yes, this one, Harper, does have glasses. So does Rivas. Which one's the scarring?

OK, on one of the -- just in case this printout gets out, this is something we're doing internally. Again, it's going to be not a typo, but if you look at Larry Harper and you happen to see this picture, up on his forehead it looks like there's a mark. That's -- it's not a stray mark on the drawing. Obviously that was something that picked up on the transfer. So if you do have that, again, that's an erroneous mark, OK? It's not a scar, it's not anything like that. Just in case, again, I'll get that picture.

Where this will be available: At this point it's on Irving Police Web site. It will be shortly. It's When you get to that Web site, look on the left side of the screen, look for "Wanted." And, again, I didn't put any information other than just the pictures so that you all could electronically pull this down for your different outlets.

I'm going to take very few questions at this point because we do have some other things I need to -- other business I need to take care of.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Dave, yesterday around 1:00, George Rivas is believed to have been seen at a Bank of America in San Marcos.

TULL: Correct. I saw news on that myself.

QUESTION: Is there any concrete evidence from the bank videotapes that proves it was indeed him?

TULL: That information hasn't gotten to me yet. And, again, that goes back, really, to the task force efforts. Again, not everybody in the task force needs to have all of the information at one time until it's known that it's verified, that type of thing. It hasn't filtered to me yet. I can't put any weight one way or the other on that, James.

So let's -- like I say, I can't verify any of that right now. I'll try to get that out to you later. You may also want to check with the other legs or the other arms of the task force.

QUESTION: Do you believe these guys are still together, Dave?

TULL: I don't think we have indications to make the jump that they're not. There are certain assumptions that we have to go on, again, concentrating the search efforts in the FW Metroplex, North- Central Texas area in general, and then from there it spreads out. Again, that's where the different entities of the task force help out. We're looking at a lot of places at once.

QUESTION: Dave, you talked about the blood from the two other sources.

TULL: Yes.

QUESTION: Would that indicate to you that Ofc. Hawkins did have time to return fire?

TULL: That's -- no, we haven't made that indication yet. Again, that's why we're phrasing it as possible injuries of unknown type. We haven't been able to clarify that at this point, so I really can't answer that.

I have one over here I've held off.

QUESTION: Based on the amount of blood from the two other sources, can you say anything about whether you expect that two of the gang members were badly wounded or lightly wounded. Is there any...?

TULL: I really can't draw any conclusions as to what the severity of injuries may have been to these other two blood sources. Again, we haven't nailed down exactly what the source is.

Yes, Didi (ph).

QUESTION: David, these escapees obviously have a lot of well- thought- out planning in their escape. Wouldn't they be prepared for people to expect them to grow beards or longer hair and things like that?

TULL: I think that's a reasonable assumption that, yes, if they're planning this out, they would plan for people to think they were growing beards or not. Which do you put the weight on? If they're thinking that -- again, there's a lot of thoughts in this. They may have a beard and then shave it off. I mean, we're not sure how they're changing their appearance in that fact, but that's a natural possibility: the facial hair, different hair, different hair color. Those type things are all possibilities.


QUESTION: David, do you have any reason to believe that they probably will try to cross the border into Mexico or if they have any family in Mexico?

TULL: At this point, we obviously don't know exactly where they're at. I think it's even assumption they could go any direction, north, south, east or west. Obviously the border is one of them. So, again, that's all that we're trying to figure out and get these tips. That's where the public is helping us the most, is getting these tips.

Obviously, you've all seen the media coverage. We've had sightings Colorado, Texas, South Texas, just all over. At this point, keep them coming in. That's what we're working on to verify.

MaryAnn (ph).

QUESTION: And, David, have you all been able to confirm if Aubrey's gun was discharged?

TULL: Again, we're not sure on that. His weapon was not recovered. Our belief is that the suspects took that weapon with them when they left.

QUESTION: Any evidence at the scene, though, that, you know, bullet, shells, anything that would indicate he got a shot off?

TULL: Again, we have no indication at this point.

I got a hand. I can't see who it is. Yes, ma'am. Oh, Dana (ph).

QUESTION: How many calls are you (OFF-MIKE)?

TULL: I don't have a total as far as how many calls we're receiving today. I can best phrase that as dozens. Again, I know of numerous times we've had well over 50 and up to 100, and possibly more than that. Again, the calls are coming in great. A lot of media coverage is really helping us with this. I ask that when you run these, if you can, work it in to where you run the original picture as well as this. And if possible, give them -- I've been getting some feedback from the general public that if there's a way to bring them up, even if it's a second apart, bring them in that way with your wonders that you do. That gives that's mind's eye a chance to capture it.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Dave, some of these sighting all across Texas, even out of the state, that are turning out to be false reports, how much stress is that putting on your department and other law enforcement agencies?

TULL: As far as the stress that the calls aren't panning out are, I think it's actually adding to our efforts, because we're not to the frustration point. Again, that's telling us that people really are concerned. They're paying attention and looking around.

I described this to somebody the other day, that, basically, you may call in a possible sighting or a piece of information that doesn't mean anything, somebody else does. Together they mean something. That's why they've got the database that's set up to where they can pull from these. What we discount as not a good sighting here and here may draw together and mean something. So in that respect, no, no frustration. And it's actually fueling us that we're doing the right thing.

QUESTION: David, back to the blood. Are you going to be able to determine which ones are who through the DNA?

TULL: That's -- as far as determining who the other two sources of blood were, that's something that's being worked on. I'm not sure what they have to compared to it at this point. I really can't speak to that.

I'm going to go about two more minutes.

And yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: How do you think the officer's blood got in that car? What do you think the scenario is?

TULL: Really, I can't speculate on scenario. It's obviously going to -- one of the speculations or one of the things that's a very good possibility is what we call transference, you know, where something that was touched by the officer was transferred over to that. Again, I'm not -- I don't have the information on quantities and that type thing, if it was smudges or, you know, that. So let's just -- I really can't answer that right now, but I think that's one of the theories that's possible: transfer.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Do any video surveillance tapes exists of these guys, such as from Oshman's?

TULL: The best way I can answer that as far as video surveillance tape that may or may not be out there, let me assure you public interest and public safety is our No. 1 concern. We're not going to hold anything back that would help identify these people more clearly. If that was available, it would be out. I'm hampered in one respect, that what we do and don't have I'm not releasing either confirmation or denial on that. That's just part of the investigation. But, please, let me assure you we will -- if that piece of information we have would help, we're going to get it out to you. QUESTION: Did they take the tape?

TULL: James, you have one more?

QUESTION: Yes, I understand that a couple of days after one of them got out, he contacted some family members in Drippings Springs from a pay phone in Hackensack (ph). Do you know anything about that?

TULL: If in fact that's -- no I don't know anything about it. If in fact that's true, that would not be part of the investigation that I could release. Personally, I have no knowledge of that.

QUESTION: OK, can I ask you, could you expedite, if at all possible, this videotape from the bank where the teller says she believes she saw George Rivas? And I think that would be the most valuable video we could show if fingerprints prove that was indeed him.

TULL: Sure. Again, that's where I'm going to put it back on the agency or agencies that are directly working that. They will -- I feel sure that they will get that information to us if it is going to be pertinent once it's completed. I won't have a hand in that at this point. Once it's brought to my attention, I will get involved with it.

One question and we're going to wind this up.

QUESTION: Yes, wasn't any money to escape. You think that next time it's going to be a bank or something?

TULL: It's -- it wouldn't behoove us right now to put out speculations and undue fear to different folks and say, well, we think they may or may not do that. That would totally be guesswork if I put that out, and I wouldn't want anybody to get a misconception.

One other thing at this point. I know the reward fund is sitting at $100,000. My information, I just haven't gotten it confirmed, that there's a good chance that will grow. Again, very important. This is for information leading to. Do not approach these people. Contact law enforcement, whether it's us or any of the other agencies. Let us do what we need to do on this and get these people into custody. I can't stress that enough, that the public safety is the prime priority and No. 1 concern.

I thank you all for your time. I'm going to stick around for a few minutes, probably about another five minutes, and we'll work it that way. And, again, thank you very much.

KAGAN: We've been listening to an update from Ofc. David Tull from the Irving Police Department.


TULL: ... just to clarify. I appreciate that.

This is a representation from the 24th, OK, part of our witness information and verification. So, again, there could be some more growth or such from that point, but this is, I think, a lot clearer picture than what we had before, so OK?

QUESTION: What were the changes...?

TULL: No more questions. I just wanted to clarify that.

KAGAN: OK, a quick clarification there from the officer, Ofc. David Tull from the Irving Police Department. These are updated sketches that we're getting our first look at. These are the seven escaped convicts that have been on the run for about the last three weeks. They escaped from the Connally Unit near Kenedy, Texas more than three years -- three weeks ago. They are considered armed and dangerous and believed responsible for the shooting and killing of an Irving, Texas police officer on Christmas Eve at an Oshman's sporting goods store in Irving, Texas.

More on that in just a moment. First, want to go ahead and put those pictures back on the screen for you. The police saying that these might show weight loss, weight gain, hair loss.

We can show you these pictures. All right, the first picture, this is Patrick Murphy. We understand he's serving 50 years for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and a burglary in Dallas. Joseph Garcia. According to our information -- let's see if we have information on Joseph Garcia. I don't think we have information on him. Let's show the next one. Larry Harper. Larry Harper. There he is. He's serving 50 years for aggravated assault after raping three women in '93 and '94. George Rivas. He is 30 years old, serving 99 years for aggravated kidnapping and burglary in El Paso. And Michael Rodriguez. He is serving a life prison term for capital murder in San Antonio after he was convicted of paying another man $2,000 to kill his wife so that he could collect a life insurance policy on her.

And Randy Halprin. Our information telling us that Randy Halprin is serving 30 years for child abuse in Fort Worth. And Donald Newbury. He is serving 99 years for aggravated robbery at an Austin hotel in 1997.

As you can tell by the description of the crimes that these men have been convicted of, they are dangerous and violent criminals. They have been on the run for about three weeks. Police in Irving believe they were involved and responsible for that burglary of that Oshman's sporting goods store on Dec. 24 in which Ofc. Aubrey Hawkins lost his life.

They also gave some new information: a suspect vehicle which was found in connection with that crime. They said there was blood in that and they now know it was the blood of three people. They know that it was -- they believe it was the blood of Ofc. Hawkins, but also of two other people. So it's possible that two of the suspects were wounded in that robbery on Dec. 24. And they also gave us more information about the weapons that were stolen from that Oshman's sporting goods store: a combination of handguns, shotguns and rifles.

Now, this also in the news today because there was a sighting yesterday, people believe, of two of the suspects, possibly sighted in San Marcos, Texas. That's closer to San Antonio than it is to Irving, Texas.

For more on that, we're going to go ahead and bring in Coco Douglas with our CNN affiliate KEYE for more on that sighting.

Coco, what can you tell us about what people believe they saw in San Marcos yesterday?

COCO DOUGLAS, KEYE REPORTER: Well, they believe they saw some very suspicious men three weeks since their escape and on the run. It was a very close call right here in the Central Texas town of San Marcos where two of the seven escapees have been confirmed by the San Marcos Police here.

Police responded to the Bank of America branch around 12:45 yesterday after clerks, like I said, noticed some suspicious men. One came in. There were a group of them outside as well, but the group of men left before police actually arrived. It was only after seeing a number of photos that bank employees positively identified two of the men: George Rivas, the believed ringleader of the group. He is a convicted aggravated robber and kidnapper. He's serving a life sentence. And they also ID'd Michael Rodriguez, a convicted capital murderer.

The police stress that all seven men are armed and dangerous. They're believed to have at least 45 weapons with them they took from a sporting goods store in Irving and here in San Marcos. Police say they're trying to find hard evidence, specifically fingerprints on a candy machine inside that Bank of America. And they say their main concern here is to keep the San Marcos residents safe.

Back to you.

KAGAN: Coco Douglas with our affiliate KEYE, thank you for that update from San Marcos, Texas.

Once again, we did show you those updated pictures. We'll have those for you later in our newscast. And the Police Department of Irving telling us those will be up on their Web site. The Web site address there,

More on that just ahead. Plus, as I mentioned, we'll have more pictures for you to look at later in the newscast.



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