Feb. 1, 2001 -- The “Texas Seven” escaped from prison only to start new lives, says one of them, Randy Halprin, and no one was supposed to die.
In the end, a police officer was killed in a confrontation Halprin acknowledges was "cold-blooded."
In an exclusive interview with ABCNEWS' Chris Wallace, Halprin, who is awaiting extradition from his Colorado prison cell to Texas, explains the group believed they could start their lives over. That, as well as observed weaknesses in security at the Connally Unit of a state prison in Kenedy, Texas, gave the group of convicted felons confidence.
"I had honestly believed that maybe I was gonna get my own second chance to show that I could, you know, possibly survive in the world without being looked at as a monster, a felon or just a criminal in general," Halprin says. "There were a lot of weaknesses [in prison security], and mainly what we did is we capitalized on how sloppy the procedures were, as far as security."
"It was a joke, the way everything was run, the way the guards treated the inmates, the way the inmates treated the guards, the whole system," Halprin says in an interview airing on PrimeTime Thursday.
Halprin and five fellow inmates — George Rivas, Michael Rodriguez, Joseph Garcia, Donald Newbury and Patrick Murphy — were captured after a monthlong nationwide manhunt. A sixth, Larry Harper, killed himself inside an RV as police outside urged him to give up.
Halprin was serving a 30-year sentence for child abuse when he and his associates escaped the maximum security prison on Dec. 13. Authorities believe the group stole at least one automatic rifle, 14 .357-caliber Magnum pistols and 238 rounds of ammunition during their escape, and numerous guns from a sporting goods store while on the run. They are also charged with killing Irving, Texas, police officer Aubrey Hawkins during the store robbery.
Halprin says that Hawkins' slaying was "a mess" that was not supposed to happen and insists he and Murphy were not involved.
"It was a terrible tragedy, but I did not participate in the shooting and another member of the Texas Seven did not, and that was Patrick Murphy," Halprin said. "The other five, I'll leave it up to them to tell the truth."
While Halprin did not want to say who killed Hawkins, he did indicate that Rodriguez was involved. Rodriguez, he said, pulled Hawkins out of his car and later admitted to shooting the officer twice in the head. Halprin noted, however, that he never actually saw Rodriguez shoot Hawkins. Autopsy results showed that Hawkins was shot 11 times, six times in the head, and was run over, which Halprin tells Wallace was "very cold-blooded."
And Bill Waybourn, police chief of the small Texas town of Dalworthington Gardens, and a friend of Halprin's parents, who live there, doesn't buy Halprin's profession of benign aims in wanting to start a new life.
"Randy is a good liar. And he is a good con man," Waybourn says. "I think that he wanted out of jail-is what I think he wanted."
Halprin says the prison escape was planned six months in advance by Rivas, the leader of the group. Rivas, he claimed, asked him first about participating in it, and handpicked the other prisoners for the breakout for their special skills. Harper and Garcia were chosen because they lived in the same area of the prison and were "good Christian friends." The others were asked because of their knowledge of the prison layout and how it was run.
Newbury, Halprin says, was especially chosen because he was a lock technician who had the trust of the higher ranking guards and had knowledge of how the back prison gate worked. Murphy was a carpenter and repairman who was often called to replace windows and doors around the prison unit.
Halprin, who does not specify what skill convinced Rivas to pick him, praises Rivas as a true mastermind who always seemed to thoroughly think out his plans.
"He sees things as a chessboard … I describe him as being very analytical," Halprin says. "He sees things and the next move — what he's gonna do if this happens, what I am gonna do to counteract that move. … That's the way he thinks, always two or three steps ahead of what is actually happening."
Despite claims to the contrary in an official report on the prison escape, Halprin claimed he only served as a lookout and did not harm any of the prison guards. He said he only tied a guard up. He also said there was never a note left behind that threatened, "You haven't heard the last of us."
Halprin claimed he only left a note explaining the reasons for the escape: mainly that the Texas prison system does not give its inmates a proper chance to rehabilitate themselves and their lives, and that they were going to show that they can start new lives.
"In a summary, basically [I] said that the inmates need to come together against one common goal, and that's pretty much to fight the system and don't be afraid to speak your mind, don't be afraid to stand up if something wrong is happening."
Afraid to Face Death
Authorities are trying to arrest those they believe helped the "Texas Seven" in their escape, but Halprin insists the group received no outside help while on the run. He says someone did arrange to have a truck waiting for them at a nearby Wal-Mart immediately after their escape, but claimed only Rivas and perhaps a few others knew who was involved.
While on the run, Halprin says, the group never traveled as a whole, only in groups of two or three. They visited a mall, he said, and even went to see a movie while they were still in Texas: The Cell starring Jennifer Lopez. Halprin claims they never carjacked or stole any vehicles, purchasing the cars and the RV trailers they used in Colorado with the money stolen in various robberies after their prison breakout.
Halprin says he has no regrets about his association with Rivas but believed that other men perhaps should have been chosen for the prison escape. He indicates that he believes Newbury and, the last two escapees captured last week, intended to commit more robberies, perhaps against the wishes of the other members of the Texas Seven.
Halprin is ready to face the death penalty for Hawkins' killing once he is returned to Texas authorities. But he doesn't want to die.
"I'm trying to prepare myself," Halprin said. "It's just something I'll think about every day and struggle with everyday. I'm very afraid to die. … I didn't go out with the intentions of causing any harm to anybody. … All I wanted was to start my life over, and that's it."