January 27, 2016
James Garrett Freeman was executed by the state of Texas on Wednesday, January 27, 2016. James was pronounced dead shortly after 6:00 pm CST, inside the Walls Unit execution chamber at the Huntsville State Penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas. He was 35 years of age. James was convicted of the murder of 34-year-old Wharton County Game Warden Justin Hurst on March 17, 2007, in Lissie, Texas. James spent the last 7 years of his life on Texas’ death row.
James was known to be easily angered and had a progressive history of alcohol abuse. He had previously received citations for driving under the influence. He was also on probation for driving while intoxicated. James graduated from high school and worked as a welder prior to his arrest.
After several complaints of shots being fired at night, Texas Game Warden Jonathan Blackburn surveilled the area on Friday, March 16, 2007. Around 11:00 pm, he saw a truck driving slowly and then heard a gunshot from a small caliber rifle, such as a .22. As it is against the law to fire shots or hunt from the side of the road, Blackburn investigated.
As he drove towards the vehicle, Blackburn activated his “red and blue lights.” The truck did not stop, driving past Blackburn. Blackburn followed the vehicle down various roads with speeds ranging from 45 to over 100 miles per hour. He also requested back-up from Wharton County Sheriff’s Office. Two officers in marked patrol cars joined the pursuit and took over as the lead from Blackburn. Three other officers also joined the pursuit.
Texas Game Warden Justin Hurst, who was not part of the chase, told officers that he was going to attempt to set up a roadblock. The driver of the truck was able to avoid the roadblock, and Hurst joined the pursuit. The chase ensued for at least another 30 minutes. Blackburn indicated that there was no spot where the suspect could have pulled over to stop. The suspect also managed to avoid several spike strips.
During the chase, a dispatcher determined, from the license plate, that the truck belonged to James Freeman. Blackburn, along with another officer, were both familiar with Freeman, as they had written him a ticket a year earlier. Initially, officers believed that the vehicle had been stolen, as the driver’s behavior did not match what they knew of Freeman. Freeman was later determined to be the driver.
Eventually, Freeman drove over a spike strip, causing him to pull over and stop. As Freeman exited the truck, keeping the truck between him and the police officers, he began firing on the officers. Freeman fired until he appeared to be out of ammunition, with the officers returning fire. He then “disappeared” and “came back out with a long gun,” an AK-47 assault rifle. Freeman continued firing at the police. Hurst moved out from under cover for a clear shot. He was shot on his left side and died from his injuries.
Please pray for peace and healing for the family of Justin Hurst. Please pray for strength for the family of James Freeman.