On this day in 2000, seven convicts break out of a maximum-security prison in South Texas, setting off a massive six-week manhunt. The escapees, dubbed the “Texas Seven” by the media, overpowered civilian employees and prison guards in the maintenance shop where they worked and stole clothing, guns and a vehicle. The men left a note saying: “You haven’t heard the last of us yet.”
Soon after escaping from the Connally Unit lockup in Kenedy, Texas, the fugitives picked up another getaway vehicle, allegedly provided by the father of one of the men, and robbed a Radio Shack store in Pearland, Texas, making off with cash and police scanners. On Christmas Eve, the escapees, who had been convicted for a long list of violent crimes, including murder, rape and robbery, struck a sporting-goods store in Irving, Texas, where they stole a large amount of cash and weapons. In the process, the men killed police officer Aubrey Hawkins, shooting him multiple times with multiple weapons and running him over. The Texas Seven then fled to Colorado, where they purchased a motor home, told people they were Christian missionaries and spent the month at a trailer park near Woodland Park, Colorado.
On January 22, 2001, a tip from someone who had seen the Texas Seven profiled on the TV program America’s Most Wanted led police to the fugitives. Ringleader George Rivas was captured along with three of the other men. A fifth fugitive committed suicide after being surrounded by police. Two days later, law enforcement officials closed in on the two remaining escapees at a hotel in Colorado Springs. A standoff ensued, during which the fugitives conducted phone interviews with a TV news station and claimed their escape was a protest against Texas’ criminal justice system. The men then surrendered to authorities.
In February 2001, the six surviving memebers of the Texas Seven were indicted on capital murder charges in the death of Officer Hawkins. Each man was later convicted and sentenced to death.