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CNN Today

Eyewitness Describes Jail Break of Seven Texas Convicts

Aired January 11, 2001 - 1:55 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: CNN is about to get its first eyewitness account of the escape of those seven men from the so-called Connally Unit of the Texas State Prison System. We have on the line with us Alejandro Marroquin. He is with the Texas Department of Prisons, a maintenance official at that Connally Unit, as I understand it Senor Marroquin. Can you tell us about that day?

ALEJANDRO MARROQUIN, PRISON MAINTENANCE WORKER: Well, let's just say it was a very terrifying day.

WATERS: Where were you at the time and what happened?

MARROQUIN: I was at lunch, and I came in and, like I said, they took us down one by one and put knives to our throw throats, tied us up, broke my nose, separated my right shoulder, broke my right thumb, and to this day I still can't feel my right arm full circulation.

WATERS: So, as we understand it there is a maintenance worker -- maintenance unit where these inmates were assigned under a designation of minimum security prisoners and there was one guard assigned to them. Can you verify that?

MARROQUIN: Well, I wasn't really assigned to them as security, I was assigned as a paint squad detail.

WATERS: Right, but there was one guard -- who was doing security on them in this maintenance unit?

MARROQUIN: There was -- the supervisors are the first line of security. Otherwise than that, I was the specter on a paint squad detail. I was not an immediate -- immediate security for that section.

WATERS: Well, as you know, there was a Texas Department of Prisons news conference this morning where the mother of a police officer who was allegedly killed by one or more of these escaped convicts is accusing you folks at the prison and the higher-ups from not doing your job properly. What did you make of that?

MARROQUIN: Well, I can't say anything for anybody else, but my condolences goes out to Ms. Hawkins and husband and all the rest of their family, but I mean it was beyond my control...

WATERS: Uh-huh. MARROQUIN: ... and it was either fight back and die or be taken as hostage and get beaten severely and be alive today.

WATERS: Well, you were there. Would you agree with Ms. Hawkins, that somebody screwed up? If things had been...

MARROQUIN: Oh, I agree. There was some mistakes.

WATERS: What -- what would you put your finger on? What's the big mistake? Not enough security?

MARROQUIN: It's hard to say. It can -- there's a range of things such as the inmate status that they had back there; the lack of manpower they had. Also, it's just all sorts of thing, you know, the access that these inmates had to the tools, the stuff they tied us up with, I mean, and the knowledge that some of these inmates had of that unit. They knew the weaknesses and where exactly the escape routes -- the easiest way to go. It was just -- it was just a matter of time.

WATERS: They also had civilian clothes, we understand, and were able to move close to the guards in the tower?

MARROQUIN: Exactly. They tied a few of us up, some of them were civilians and clothes were taken from them.

WATERS: So, from your vantage point, these guys weren't locked down tight enough?

MARROQUIN: I don't think so. I'll -- tell you the truth, these guys had a lot of access for the criminal background that they had.

WATERS: Did they threaten your life?

MARROQUIN: Yes. They put a knife to my throat and said, either -- you know, you're either going to comply with what we say or we will kill you.

WATERS: What would be your characterization of these guys now that they're on the outside and the folks who may be frightened for their well-being?

MARROQUIN: Stay away from them would be your best bet. Don't try to confront them. These guys -- they look harmless but they can turn. I mean, it's a split-second. They're nice guys, second, you know, anything can happen.

WATERS: All right, Mr. Marroquin, we're very happy that you're able to talk with us today. Thank you very much for taking the time.

MARROQUIN: Thank you.

WATERS: Alejandro Marroquin -- he worked at the Connally Unit down there and this is the first we have heard from inside the prison about that day. As the investigation goes on, the Department of Prisons is considering this memo on how the escape could have happened even while these convicts are still on the loose out there somewhere. NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: And again, the mother of the police officer allegedly killed by these men continues to speak out in her outrage and we'll have that later here on CNN.

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