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CNN Today

Manhunt in Texas: At Least Two Prison Escapees Spotted at Bank; Texas Dept. of Justice Spokesman Discusses Flood of Leads

Aired January 5, 2001 - 1:07 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Police in South Texas are on alert today after at least two of those seven escaped prisoners were spotted near San Antonio. Authorities say they've received more than 1,000 tips now about the whereabouts of these wanted men.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OFC. DAVID TULL, IRVING, TEXAS POLICE: I think it's an even assumption they could go any direction, north, south, east or west. Obviously the borders is one of them. So, again, that's all we're trying to figure out and get these tips. That's where the public is helping us the most, is getting these tips. Obviously, you all have seen the media coverage where we've had sightings: Colorado, Texas, South Texas, just all over. At this point, keep them coming in. That's what we're working on to verify.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATERS: Reporter Coco Douglas of CNN affiliate KEYE is in San Marcos, Texas today where police say two of those escapees were spotted at a bank.

Coco, any positive developments here?

COCO DOUGLAS, KEYE REPORTER: Well, there's certainly heightened awareness on everyone's part out here in the small town of San Marcos, because it was a very close call, as you know. Two of the seven escaped inmates have been confirmed by San Marcos Police. The seven inmates were likely to be yesterday at the Bank of America around 12:45 Thursday. And clerks noticed that they just saw some suspicious men out there. And one actually came into the bank and asked around about opening an account. And the group of men actually left before police could even make it there and see who actually they were.

But it was after seeing photographs, including from the security camera in the bank, that bank employees positively identified two of the men; specifically one of the -- the ring leader of the group, George Rivas. He's serving a life sentence for aggravated robbery and kidnapping. They also ID'd a second man, Michael Rodriguez, a convicted capital murderer.

And police mention it is strange that these inmates have not separated from each other yet. But, regardless, all seven men are considered to be armed and dangerous. they have dozens of weapons with them.

And here in San Marcos, police are just saying they're working on trying to find some positive identification; specifically, fingerprints on the candy machine in the bank that they were in. And right now, their main concern is really just keeping the residents in San Marcos safe. And they've passed out flyers and gone to residents and businesses to tell people that if you see anything suspicious or see anyone suspicious, call the police. And that's what the San Marcos police are up to right now.

Back to you, Lou.

WATERS: I guess because of this incident where you are, awareness is extremely high about these men, in not only Texas, but in that particular part of Texas.

DOUGLAS: Definitely.

WATERS: All right, Coco Douglas, KEYE, our CNN affiliate joining us. We appreciate it very much.

Natalie, what's next?

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: More information now, Lou, about the Texas manhunt. Joining us from Austin is Larry Todd of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Mr. Todd, what can you tell us about the manhunt right now?

LARRY TODD, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE: Well, we're continuing to check out all the leads. We have over 1,200 leads. But we must caution the public that these sightings are coming in simultaneously from different locations. Yesterday's sighting in San Marcos, Texas was also coupled with a sighting in Durango, Colorado; one in southern Oklahoma; and one is western Louisiana. So we're taking them seriously. We have to check them out.

And in regards to the San Marcos, Texas sighting, we have no concrete evidence that says that the escapees were there. We don't know where they are. That's the candid answer. And it is our fervent desire that we'll get them back without bloodshed. But the real world is we have not located them. These are very unusual inmates. They stick together, they've made a pact to stick together, they're street smart, and their leader, Rivas, is very persuasive, he's motivational and extremely dangerous.

ALLEN: How do you know they've made a pact to stay together?

TODD: We're not going to discuss that part. That's part of the investigation. But they have stayed together, breaking off in small groups of two or three for whatever to travel some. But generally, they are keeping together. They're coming back together either in the evenings or in the mornings or something like that.

ALLEN: Are police working on the assumption that they are all still in Texas at this point? TODD: At this time, it's the Texas Department of Criminal Justice theory that they are still in Texas. We are concentrating heavily, again, in the Metroplex knowing that they have left the Metroplex and then come back. But, again, as I told you before, candidly, we don't know their exact location.

ALLEN: Do you know what kind of vehicle they're using?

TODD: We put out some descriptions of vehicles, but we know that they're changing them. The ones that are reported stolen are not panning out, we're doing fingerprints there. And so the leads are very difficult. But these inmates are very cunning. They know how to wipe down a car, clean their fingerprints. They know how to hide a car. These are street-smart convicts.

ALLEN: Yes, they also know how to get out of a maximum security prison.

TODD: Yes they do.

ALLEN: Larry, Todd, thank you for talking with us.

TODD: You're welcome.

ALLEN: We'll stay on top of this story.

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