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Witnesses say they saw Texas jail escapees north of Houston
Gas station surveillance tape being analyzed
HOUSTON, Texas (CNN) -- Federal and Texas authorities are investigating the reported sighting of two of the seven escaped prison convicts wanted in the fatal shooting of an Irving police officer, a police official said Tuesday.
The alleged sighting occurred at an Exxon gas station about 74 miles north of Houston on Monday, according to Navasota, Texas, Police Chief Bill Lucas.
An FBI spokesman in Houston said surveillance tape from the station was being reviewed.
Lucas said employees at the gas station on Highway 105 called police shortly after 11 a.m., claiming two of the suspects had just left the station in a red flatbed truck.
The reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the inmates has reached $440,000.
Clerks identify two suspects
After reviewing photos shown to them by police, the clerks said they believed two of the suspects, Randy Ethan Halprin and Donald Keith Newbury, were the men who had just left the station, heading eastbound.
Lucas said all area law enforcement officials were alerted, but no vehicles matching the description were found.
Surveillance tape from the station was sent to the Texas Department of Corrections in Huntsville to be reviewed by a supervisor. However, "the quality was not good enough to make a determination," FBI spokesman Bob Doquim said.
Doquim told CNN the surveillance tape was then sent to a lab at Sam Houston University in Huntsville, where an effort was made to improve the quality, but identifications there were also unsuccessful.
Doquim said the Texas Department of Criminal Justice intends to send the tape to the lab at FBI headquarters in Washington for review. He said no one from the FBI had reviewed the tape involved in the reported sighting.
The Grimes County Sheriff's office also worked Tuesday to identify fingerprint samples left on paper and other items at the station. However, the FBI said no fingerprints have been positively identified as belonging to either of the suspects.
Suspects ask for directions
A clerk at the station told police the two men entered the convenience store at the station, one went to the food counter while the other tried on sunglasses. The two subjects then reportedly attempted to use a credit card that did not work and also asked for directions to Conroe, Texas, a small town 30 miles east of Navasota.
Clerks said the two men left the station, along with several other men, who were waiting in a flatbed truck.
Lucas said the clerks were unable to identify the other men in the truck.
Halperin, 23, and Newbury, 38, were among seven fugitives who escaped from the Connally Unit near Kenedy, Texas, on December 13. All seven are wanted on capital murder charges following the shooting death of Irving police officer Aubrey Hawkins. Hawkins had responded to a burglary at the Oshman's sporting goods store Christmas Eve.
The suspects allegedly obtained several weapons from that heist and police found a gun at the store that police said was taken from the prison during the breakout.
Reward for Texas 7 grows to $440,000
Federal Bureau of Investigation
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