December 4, 2018
Joseph Christopher Garcia has been executed by the state of Texas on Tuesday, December 4, 2018. Joseph was pronounced dead at 6:43 pm CDT, inside the Walls Unit execution chamber at Huntsville State Penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas. Joseph was 47 years of age. He was executed for the murder 29-year-old Police Officer Aubrey Hawkins on December 24, 2000, in Irving, Texas. Joseph spent the last 15 years of his life on death row in Texas.
Joseph graduated from high school and worked as a maintenance worker at the San Antonio airport. He had previously been arrested for numerous misdemeanors. In 1996, Joseph went out drinking with his friend 19-year-old Miguel Luna. On the way home from the bar, Miguel gave Joseph incorrect directions, leading to an argument and a physical fight. Joseph stabbed Miguel 19 times, killing him.
Joseph received a 50-year prison sentence for the murder of Miguel. In December of 2000, Joseph was serving his time at the John B. Connally Unit, a maximum security state prison near Kenedy, Texas. Joseph conspired with six other inmates - 38-year-old Donald Newbury, 23-year-old Randy Ethan Halprin, 37-year-old Larry James Harper, 39-year-old Patrick Henry Murphy, Jr., 30-year-old George Rivas, and 38-year-old Michael Anthony Rodriguez - to break out of the prison. The group, lead by George Rivas, became known as the “Texas 7.” All were serving sentences of 30 years or longer, most with potential life sentences.
On December 13, 2000, around 11:20 am, the seven inmates used a variety of ploys to overpower and restrain nine civilian maintenance supervisors, four correctional officers, and three uninvolved inmates. They had planned the escape during the slowest part of the day and in areas with low surveillance. They stole a white prison truck to assist in their escape, eventually dumping it in a Wal-Mart parking lot.
After their escape, the group of seven fled to San Antonio, Texas. On December 14, they robbed a Radio Shack in Pearland to obtain money. On December 19, four of the seven checked into an Econo Lodge motel in Farmers Branch. They decided, once again needing money, to rob Oshman’s Sporting Goods store in Irving, a nearby town. For several days they cased the store and created their plans.
On December 24, 2000, they held up to store, stealing 44 guns and over $70,000 in cash. A customer outside the store saw the hold up and called police. Officer Aubrey Hawkins responded to the call and was immediately ambushed. He suffered 11 gunshot wounds from at least five different weapons. His body was dragged out of his vehicle and run over by the group as they fled the scene.
The Texas 7 were eventually arrested on January 22, 2001, with the help of the television show America’s Most Wanted, which featured their story on January 20, 2001. Six of seven were captured. The seventh, Larry Harper, killed himself before he could be arrested. All six surviving members were charged, convicted, and sentenced to death for the murder of Officer Hawkins. As it was unclear who actually shot Officer Hawkins, they were convicted under the Law of Parties, which allows for a person to be criminally held responsible for another’s actions if that person acts with “the intent to promote or assist the commission of the offense and solicits, encourages, directs aids, or attempts to aid the other person to commit the offense… If, in the attempt to carry out a conspiracy to commit one felony, another felony is committed by one of the conspirators, all conspirator are guilty of the felony actually committed.”
The ringleader, George Rivas was executed on February 29, 2012. Michael Anthony Rodriguez was executed on August 14, 2008, after asking that his appeals be stopped. Donald Newbury was executed on February 4, 2015.
Please pray for peace for the families of Aubrey Hawkins and Miguel Luna. Please pray for strength for the family of Joseph.