'Texas Seven' Leader Recalls Capture

George Rivas Talks To Ed Bradley

Staying one step ahead of the police required money and resources. George Rivas and his six fellow escapees got those things through robbery. Rivas had committed dozens of robberies over the years, starting when he was a kid, growing up poor in El Paso.

"Honestly, some people are addicted to drugs, some to alcohol," Rivas told Ed Bradley during their prison interview. "I was addicted to money."

Rivas applied his skills within two days of his escape. With military precision, he and his partners robbed a Radio Shack in Houston, taking police scanners and walkie talkies. Then they hit an auto supply store, making off with $10,000.

Says Rivas: "Before when I robbed, it was out of greed. Simply, I wanted the money. This time, I had planned for us to rob to get money, buy clothes, food, shelter, a vehicle. And purchase some ID's." Rivas says the plan was for the group to split up, and for him to get a legitimate job as a cook.

"I wanted a part-time job," he says. "I wanted to be normal and low key. This is what I was going to do. I had no doubt about that."

But on Christmas Eve, Rivas and his gang robbed the Oshman's Sporting Goods Store in Irving, Texas. Posing as security guards, Rivas and the others tied up the manager and several employees, and walked out with $70,000 in cash, 45 guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. As they were heading toward their stolen Ford Explorer, police Officer Aubrey Hawkins pulled into the parking lot and drove towards Rivas,who was standing about three feet away.

"I fired one round first, at his right shoulder," Rivas says. "Now, I cursed, screamed at him, and cursed for him to raise his hands. I got closer. I stepped about three steps closer this time, now I'm beside his window. I shot at his left shoulder."

"I know I fired into the vehicle three times," he says. When Bradley points out that Hawkins was shot 11 times, Rivas takes the fifth: "I'm not gonna implicate any of my friends. Whether I fired the lethal round that did kill Mr. Hawkins or not, I did initiate it. I am at fault and I do take full responsibility for it."

The killing of Officer Hawkins made the Texas Seven the most wanted men in America. With law enforcement authorities in nearly every state hunting for them, they drove more than 800 miles to the small town of Woodland Park, Colorado, where they bought an RV, and settled into a trailer park.

They went to Colorado, Rivas says, because no one expected them to. "Everyone expected us to go to Mexico. Everyone expected me to resume my old MO of robbing throughout the Southwest."

Most of the group blended into the community, going to bars, the grocery store, some even went to Bible study class. All the while, their faces were being shown on TV nearly every night. Even though they had changed their appearance, dying their hair, growing beards and mustaches, that was the beginning of the end.

On the Jan. 21, Teller County Sheriff Frank Fehn got a tip from people who had watched the program America's Most Wanted and said that "The Texas Seven" might be living in the RV park down the road. The sheriff, posing as a tourist, loaded up his own RV with heavily armed state and federal agents, and that night drove into the trailer park so he could monitor the group. In the morning, they made their move, when Rivas and two of the others jumped in their Jeep and left the trailer park.

"They were followed to a Western convenience store," says Fehn. "They pull up to the gas pumps. Two units come from behind. At least three, if not four, units boxed them in and immediately exited the police vehicles, weapons drawn, and totally surprised them."

Rivas remembers the scene: "There was a man in front of me with an AR-15 pointing at my chest, officer next to me suited up in body armor. Car was still on, it was in gear. I had my foot on the brake. I had an opportunity to run."

But Fehn says the escapees had no opportunity to resist: "They did not have an opportunity to resist. If they did, it would not have been a blood bath, but three people woulda been dead." The three people, Fehn says, would have been the inmates.

Rivas, Michael Rodriguez and Joseph Garcia were taken into custody. Later that day, Randy Halprin surrendered after being surrounded at the trailer park. Larry Harper refused to surrender and fatally shot himself in the chest. As for Donald Newbury and Patrick Murphy, they were captured two days later at a Holiday Inn in Colorado Springs.

Rivas says that after his capture, he felt conflicting emotions. "A very, very, very small part of me in the back of my mind was relieved," he says. "Another part of me just wanted to yell and scream in pain because the whole reason we did this, because we didn't want to be in prison anymore. And here we are going back again."

On Feb. 2, Rivas was brought back to Texas, where he now faces a mandatory death sentence for killing Officer Aubrey Hawkins. The others remain in Colorado fighting their extradition.

Rivas says that he didn’t fight extradition because he thinks he deserves the death penalty: "With the death of Mr. Hawkins, a death sentence to me, I feel personally is fitting. I deserve it then. So I'm not going to fight it."

Part 1: Rivas Talks About Weeks Of Freedom




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