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Special Event

Texas Department of Criminal Justice Holds News Conference on Capture of Four Fugitives, Ongoing Hunt for Remaining Two

Aired January 23, 2001 - 11:31 a.m. ET

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

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Also live, we'll be going to Austin, Texas, where we're expecting a briefing on those seven Texas fugitives. I think it is starting. Let go ahead and listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's A -- initial only -- M -- initial only -- Mac -- M-A-C -- Stringfellow. Chairman Stringfellow is going to respond to questions and talk to you about where we are now where with the escapees.

In order to maintain our focus at this particular juncture of the situation, we would like to talk about the recapture. And for those of you who have burning questions left on the incident, the robbery and the murder of the police officer, or the actual escape or the actual reward, those are some questions that we'll have to address at another time. Our purpose here is to talk about the capture in Colorado and where we go from there. I know you'll have questions on extradition and that sort of thing, but we would like to stay focused on those items. For those of you that do have other questions, Glen (ph) and I will be in the office and we'll try to accommodate your needs this afternoon.

So that's roughly our ground rules. And if you all are all ready, if this has been your mike level and your white balance and all those sorts of technical things, Chairman Stringfellow now will try to respond to some of your questions. He wanted to begin by thanking some folks who have been very helpful to us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (OFF-MIKE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's all right.

Terry, do you need to reset that or get squared away. We'll give you some time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Well, there are really a lot of people to thank. And the chairman would like to begin by thanking those people, some members of the public and law enforcement.

So Chairman Stringfellow? MAC STRINGFELLOW, TEXAS DEPT. OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE: Thank you for being here this morning. As Larry said, we do have many people to thank for the capture of four of the escapees. And we can't not have done this without the tremendous interagency cooperation that we've had from day one with the FBI, the U.S. Marshal Service, the ATF, the Texas Rangers, the Special Crimes Unit from the DPS, and all of the many local law enforcement agencies throughout the state and the country.

We also want to thank the "America's Most Wanted" TV program that generated many, many leads for this search. Since Dec. 13, we have processed more than 2,500 leads from various sources throughout the state and around the country. Obviously some had more promise than others.

The lead we received early yesterday morning was one of those leads that we felt had quite a bit of promise. The information from that lead indicated that the source was somewhat familiar with the escapees, their appearance. The FBI and the U.S. Marshals and the local county sheriff's office in Woodland Park started the surveillance late Sunday afternoon and finally was able to make the arrest of three of the escapees -- that would be Rivas, Rodriguez and Garcia -- without incident, even though they had firearms in the jeep with them and one had two firearms on his person. They gave up without incident and no shots were fired.

The other two had been barricaded for a period of time and one finally gave himself up. And, as you know, the other one shot himself rather than giving up.

What happens now is, of course, the extradition process. And we have several options as to -- that we can look at. We're trying to choose that option which would get them back here to Texas as quickly as possible. Probably we'd have to do that on a federal warrant either with the help of the FBI or the ATF.

So right now where they are still in custody up in Colorado, they will be arraigned this morning before a magistrate in Colorado. And hopefully we will be able to get the extradition process started as quickly as possible.

Right now, that's about all the information we have. We do -- we have interviewed the three escapees. The fourth one will be interviewed shortly. Unfortunately, we cannot disclose any information that they have given us at this time because much of it involves the ongoing investigation. So I can't get into any of the details or the particulars about what happened during the debriefing or the interview process.

QUESTION: Are all four separated at this point, or what is their status?

STRINGFELLOW: They're all four still in the local county jail up there. Now, once we get them back to Texas, what we are planning to do with them is to certainly separate them and put them in what we call a "12 building" around the state. We'll send them to different parts of the state, but they will be separated once we get them back to Texas.

Now...

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

STRINGFELLOW: Well, that's a type of very maximum security building that we have. There's all single-celled, high-security building. It's -- we're not sure exactly what the process will be. I know that the Irving Police Department will want to get them up there and have their arraignment or their indictments with them because, as you know, they're all facing capital murder charges. At this time, when we do get them back within the TDCJ custody, we will hold them in these maximum security units until they go to trial, if that's the course of action that's taken.

QUESTION: What city will they go to first in Texas?

STRINGFELLOW: We're not sure. Possibly we'll take them back to Huntsville or to Irving.

QUESTION: Chairman, have you learned anything from these four that will aid you in tracking down the two that are still at large?

STRINGFELLOW: Well, as I said, we have debriefed them and we've gotten some information from them, but I can't disclose what that is at this time.

QUESTION: Do you still believe they're going to Mexico?

STRINGFELLOW: Well, that was the assumption at the time. We're not sure exactly where they are.

QUESTION: Do you feel like you have some good leads that will help you find the two that are still at large, or are you really (OFF- MIKE)?

STRINGFELLOW: No, we're in much, much better position and shape now than what we were Dec. 13. We do have a trail now. We do have leads that we can follow up. And we're not that far behind them. They only had a few hours headstart on us. So we're in a much better position of catching the remaining two than we were five weeks ago when all seven were out.

QUESTION: Are you going to fly them back to Huntsville, then split them up from there? Talk about that a little bit.

STRINGFELLOW: All right, what we'll try do will probably be something like with the assistance and cooperation of the U.S. Marshals or the FBI. We'll do kind of a "Con Air," if you will, and bring them back to Texas. And at that point, we'll decide whether we send them to Irving and/or put them into one of the TDCJ units.

QUESTION: What did the three say when they were confronted by law enforcement officers yesterday morning? And also, again, did they say anything about why the other two cut out? Did they say anything as to why the other two cut out when they did? STRINGFELLOW: Well, there again, that information was obtained from the debriefing of the four that we have, and I can't go into that. But basically, as it was quoted in the newspaper yesterday, or this morning, Rivas said that he had a change of heart and wanted to change his life and what he had been doing. So...

QUESTION: Was he the one that's been going to Bible studies?

STRINGFELLOW: I think that might have been Harper. I'm not sure. I'm not sure which one was going to Bible study.

QUESTION: Did any of the 2,500 leads have possibilities? Did you get close to them and then they got away, or was there a person who actually knew where they were?

STRINGFELLOW: Well, we had some very strong leads a few weeks ago that we felt like had a lot of promise, but we weren't able to fulfill the checking -- following those leads without the necessary equipment. So...

QUESTION: I'm somewhat confused when you said that the lead -- that Torres (ph) was somewhat familiar with the escapees, their parents, I think is what you said. I thought it was somebody from within the trailer park.

KAGAN: We've been listening to Chairman Mac Stringfellow with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice getting the latest on those Texas escapees. Two of them still on the run, and the hunt continues for them. Of the four that are in custody, the extradition process has starting to get them back to Texas where they'll be taken to Huntsville or to Irving, Texas. They will be facing capital murder charges when they do arrive back in the Lone Star State.

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