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CNN Today

Texas Corrections Department Unveils Report

Aired January 11, 2001 - 4:10 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: The Texas Corrections Department released a scathing report today that shows how seven dangerous inmates pulled off a daring escape. The report faults prison security and says the inmates could have been stopped. They are still on the loose, as you may know; they're charged with murder.

CNN's Tony Clark has the latest from Austin, Texas.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TONY CLARK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): While the nationwide search continues for the seven armed and dangerous inmates, Texas prison officials are blaming the escape on the failure of prison employees to follow their own rules.

GARY JOHNSON, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE: Our primary mission is public safety, and to keep these people incarcerated; and we failed, that day, to do that.

CLARK: The half-inch-thick report details how the convicts were able to overpower prison employees one by one and take them hostage, beginning with a lone supervisor in the maintenance office.

JOHNSON: As Mr. Moczygemba (ph) bent over to look at the motor, someone struck him in the head with an ax handle and he was rendered unconscious.

CLARK: With that, the first hostage was taken. Over the next 2 1/2 half hours, the convicts took more than a dozen more as they returned from lunch. Officer Alejandro Marroquin was one of them.

ALEJANDRO MARROQUIN, CORRECTIONS OFFICER: They broke my nose; they separated my shoulder; they put a knife to my throat. And you can either fight back or you're going to die, one way or the other.

CLARK: Corrections officials say a prison recreation officer, who saw the inmates unsupervised, failed to notify anyone. A fire alarm set off by one of the hostages was not properly investigated; and the guard at a perimeter tower allowed a convict wearing civilian clothes to come through the gate without verifying his identity.

That allowed the convicts control of that tower. There, they took 16 weapons, ammunition, and were able to flee the prison. JOHNSON: I think that the officer at the back gate who is a -- by all appearances, a good officer, made a bad error on this particular date.

CLARK: The report angered officer Marroquin, who felt low-level employees were being made scapegoats. He left the room, throwing his ID badge at prison officials. It also didn't satisfy Jayne Hawkins, the mother of the Irving, Texas police officer killed by the escapees during a Christmas Eve robbery.

JAYNE HAWKINS, SLAIN OFFICER'S MOTHER: I expected the Texas Board of Criminal Justice to point fingers at low-level employees at the prison. They certainly are accountable, but so are you.

CLARK: Corrections officials promised disciplinary action would be taken, and some procedures reviewed.

(on camera): In the meantime, they face an even more difficult task: finding the seven escapees and getting them back in prison without any more bloodshed.

Tony Clark, CNN, Austin.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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