HUNTSVILLE(CBSDFW.COM) – The leader of a group of prison escapees that became known as the Texas Seven is dead.
At 6:22 p.m. Wednesday, the state of Texas executed George Rivas, the highest profile death row inmate in years.
Rivas was already a notorious criminal, serving a total of 18 consecutive 15-year-to-life sentences, when he gained infamy in 2000 as the leader of a band of prison escapees.
Wednesday evening, the 41-year-old was administered a lethal injection in the state’s death chamber in Huntsville
His last words were an apology to the family of a man he killed, Irving Police officer Aubrey Hawkins.
On Christmas Eve of 2000, eleven days after Rivas and six other violent prisoners broke out of the Connally Unit in Kenedy, the group robbed a sporting goods store in Irving.
Officer Hawkins arrived on the scene, was shot nearly a dozen times, and was then run over.
“I do apologize for everything that happened, not because I am here, but for closure in your hearts,” said Rivas in his final words. “I am ready to go.”
The seven escapees remained on the run for another month before authorities received a tip they were staying at an RV park in Woodland Park, Colorado.
Six of the escapees were captured, including Rivas, while a seventh committed suicide.
Rivas was tried in Dallas and said he deserved a death sentence, but spent 11 years appealing the punishment.
“Aubrey was my man, he worked for me, I felt responsible for him,” said former Irving Police Chief Lowell Cannady.
Among those in Huntsville who witnessed the execution was attorney Toby Shook, the prosecutor in the Rivas case.
“This crime couldn’t be more brutal… breaking out of prison, murdering a police officer. It’s a case that gives a great example to why the death penalty is appropriate in certain cases,” said Shook. “Today is not about George Rivas. Today is not about the death penalty. Today is about justice for Aubrey Hawkins.”
While a group of Irving police officers waited for word that Rivas had been executed, a text message brought a bittersweet smile to Cannady’s face.
“I got a text a little while ago that said his son is about to be a father, so I think that made me feel really good,” he said. “Everything from joy for him to regret that his father is not going to be here for that occasion.”
Michael Rodriguez is the only one of the six living escapees to be executed so far. Four others remain on death row in the Polunksy Unit in Livingston.
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