Texas Execution Information Center

Execution Report: George Rivas

George Rivas
George Rivas
Executed on 29 February 2012

George Rivas, 41, was executed by lethal injection on 29 February 2012 in Huntsville, Texas for the murder of a police officer while on escape from prison.

On 13 December 2000, Rivas, then 30, escaped from the maximum-security Connally Prison Unit in south Texas, where he was serving a life sentence for multiple counts of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery, and burglary. Rivas made the escape with six other prisoners - Patrick Murphy, 39; Donald Newbury, 38; Michael Rodriguez, 38; Joseph Garcia, 29; Randy Halprin, 23; and Larry Harper. The men overpowered prison workers and took their clothes, 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. He also ordered store manager Wesley Ferris to open the store's gun vault, safe, and cash registers, repeatedly warning him that he would be shot if he resisted. Rivas then took Ferris's keys and left him in the break room with the other employees.

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 her head and called a friend, who joined her in her car.

Rivas then exited the store through the front entrance and drove Ferris's Ford Explorer around to the loading dock in the back. Wright and her friend saw this and drove quickly to a nearby restaurant to phone the police. Rivas noticed Wright driving away and warned the others on his radio, directing them to move to the back of the store. Within minutes, Murphy radioed the group to alert them to a police vehicle he saw entering the Oshman's parking lot.

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.

Some of the escapees pulled Hawkins' body from his police vehicle and took his sidearm. Rivas then ran over Hawkins in Ferris's Explorer, dragging his body approximately ten feet.

Rivas was shot during the barrage of gunfire.

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' gun, as well as guns and merchandise stolen from Oshman's, were found in the mens' possession at the time of their arrest. Rivas signed a written confession.

At his trial, jurors were told that Rivas was the leader of the escapees. He had planned their escape from the Connally Unit as well as the robbery of the Oshman's in Irving.

Rivas testified that he only shot at Hawkins because Hawkins was reaching for his gun. He said he knew Hawkins would be wearing a bulletproof vest, so he deliberately shot him in the chest, so as to subdue him, rather than kill him. He testified that he did not know he had run over Hawkins until he heard the evidence at trial.

At his punishment hearing, Rivas asked the jury to sentence him to death.

At the time of his escape, Rivas was serving a life sentence for 13 counts of aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon, 4 counts of aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon, and one count of burglary of a habitation.

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