NYPD On Lookout For Texas Seven

The New York Police Department is on high alert as they have received word that the "Texas Seven" — the roaming gang of armed convicts that escaped from prison last month — may be in the Big Apple.

Police officials confirmed today that they received a tip from law enforcement officials Wednesday night around 10:30 and that they were interviewing sources who claim they have seen "several" of the seven escapees. The seven are being sought by the FBI, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Texas police for weapons violations, two robberies, and the Dec. 24 shooting death of a police officer.

"We have some information that a number of the seven individuals who escaped from a Texas prison in December may have made their way to New York. And we are reacting to that information," said NYPD Chief Joseph Esposito.

According to Esposito, patrol officers have been put on a heightened state of alert and told the men are considered armed and dangerous. Mugshots of the inmates — which include two convicted killers, two robbers, a serial rapist, a child abuser, and a burglar — were handed out at all of the NYPD's 76 precincts late Wednesday night. Police say they do not know where the men may be hiding out in New York City. They said anyone with information should call the Crimestoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS.

"Because these fellows are extremely dangerous, they may be armed, and have already stated they will not be taken alive," Esposito said.

Since their escape on Dec. 13, the seven men — George Rivas, Joseph Garcia, Michael Rodriguez, Randy Halprin, Patrick Murphy Jr., Larry Harper and Donald Newbury have been suspected of committing two robberies, including a fatal Christmas Eve burglary of an Oshman's Super Sports Store USA where they allegedly killed Irving police officer Aubrey Hawkins. Hawkins was shot 11 times, mostly in the head, then run over.

Numerous Previous Sightings

Officials say the "Texas Seven" stole a heavy arsenal of more than 40 weapons, including at least one automatic rifle, 14 .357 Magnum pistols, 238 rounds of ammunition, during and after their escape from a prison in Kenedy, Texas and numerous guns from the sports store. They are also suspected of stealing police scanners during a robbery of a Radio Shack store near Dallas, and those scanners, investigators believe, may have helped the escapees in the fatal Christmas Eve robbery. They have also commandeered and abandoned vehicles during their prison escape and alleged robberies, leading authorities to believe they are receiving outside help.

The Texas Seven's New York sighting came two days after Texas police received a tip that two of the men were spotted shopping in a gas station convenience store northwest of Houston. There have been several unconfirmed sightings of the convicted criminals everywhere from a Dallas County fireworks stand to a bank in San Marco, to Canon City, in southwestern Colorado, but none have proven fruitful. The reward for information leading to their capture and conviction is now at $440,000.Reported by WABC's Cheryl Fiandaca in New York.