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Texas Fugitives Surrender: Lt. Skip Arms Discusses Unique Deal to Gain Peaceful Surrender

Aired January 24, 2001 - 6:32 a.m. ET


LINDA STOUFFER, CNN ANCHOR: We want to bring you up to date on the breaking story we've been following overnight. I'll give you the bigger picture now.

You might remember the seven men who escaped from the Connally Unit in Kenedy, Texas in mid December. As of Monday, four of those men were in custody, one had committed suicide. And now, as of about 45 minutes ago, the last two were taken into custody. The men surrendered to police in Colorado after a night of dramatic developments.

JASON CARROLL, CNN ANCHOR: Frank Buckley is standing by live in Colorado Springs with an update for us.

Frank, hi there. What can you tell us?

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jason, the suspects were taken into custody very shortly after the interviews ended between -- with both fugitives at 3:43 a.m. local time. They both ended their interviews and then, shortly thereafter, honored their agreement to come outside and take off their shirts so that police could examine them. And then were promptly taken into custody and led away into -- in handcuffs to a police car.

The interviews first taking place. Patrick Murphy spoke first to a local television news reporter. His interview began at 3:29 a.m. local time. He spoke for five minutes with the local television reporter, Eric Singer, of KKTV. Then Donald Newbury, the other fugitive, got on the phone with the television reporter who was in -- also in the Holiday Inn, but not exactly where the -- not exactly in the same room.

We've got with us -- is this Skip -- Skip Arms.

Skip, why don't we -- let me step down here.

Skip Arms is with the Colorado Springs Police Department.

Skip, tell us exactly, first of all, were you able to go into the room? Have you secured the room and what if anything did you find in there?

LT. SKIP ARMS, COLORADO SPRINGS POLICE DEPARTMENT: Well, I did secure the room. I believe they made just a cursory search to make sure there were no other people in the room. And then they shut down the room until they obtain a search warrant. And then they'll go back in and process it.

You know, hopefully, they'll be able to locate the guns that have been missing and any other material that's related to this.

BUCKLEY: Can you speak to the thought process in allowing the television reporter to become involved in the negotiation? I know that must have been somewhat of a difficult call. Can you tell us how that went?

ARMS: Well, the decision was made in the command post to allow it. I think this is a process -- we knew it was a potentially dangerous situation, but we also knew that we certainly were in a position of advantage here. Our ultimate goal was to resolve this peacefully.

And so, you know, over the course of several hours, we were able to establish, I think, a strong degree of trust and credibility with them. And so, in establishing that trust, you know, this was an issue that they wanted to do, and I felt that we were able to gain their confidence and get the exchange commitment that they would, in fact, be allowed to give whatever message they wanted to air. And then, in return for that, they would then peaceably surrender.

BUCKLEY: Was there any sense of before this decision was made that they might not honor it or was it pretty -- was there a pretty clear feeling that, based on the negotiations that occurred up to that point, that they would honor?

ARMS: Well there's no guarantee. There's always a risk with this kind of a deal. I think they felt in the command post that it was a pretty safe risk in terms of the -- containing the situation here. They really didn't have anything to lose by granting that. You know, they didn't place anybody in any additional jeopardy.

So again, with the ultimate goal being to try to resolve this peaceably, we felt we had nothing to lose by doing that.

BUCKLEY: Can you tell us how you came to find the fugitives inside this Holiday Inn?

ARMS: The information I have is that this afternoon one of the several hundred tips that we received was assigned to be followed up by one of the teams. They were able to verify and confirm some of the information. And I don't have the specific information, but it did lead them to this hotel. They did make contact by telephone and this thing went on from there.

BUCKLEY: Was that at around 10:00 p.m. last night or do you recall?

ARMS: No, the negotiations, I think, started sometime around 10:00, but I believe the information was actually received or verified maybe an hour or so before. BUCKLEY: And the negotiations began fairly immediately. Can you give us a sense of what you had to do in the hotel? I assume you evacuated all of the rooms fairly quietly. How did that happen?

ARMS: Well, we only evacuated about six to eight rooms altogether. The way this hotel is laid out is there are several wings. And so, in order to minimize the disruption, we only evacuated those parts of the hotel we felt would face any imminent risk. We did establish a command post in one wing of the hotel, which we had the negotiators, obviously the tactical commanders, and representatives from all of the agencies to kind of develop strategies to go through this situation.

BUCKLEY: All right, Lt. Skip Arms, thank you very much for joining us and for bringing us up to speed on CNN with what's happened. Thank you.

That is the latest here. And, as we were saying a moment ago, there were two interviews, Patrick Murphy Jr. gave one interview. After that, there was a switch, and Donald Newbury got on the phone and was interviewed by the local television anchor man.

Here is a portion of that interview with Donald Newbury.


ERIC SINGER, KKTV REPORTER: ... honor his commitment as well with officers to end this situation peacefully.

Donald, are you on the line with me?


SINGER: Hi, Donald. And I assume that you're watching television. If you could, just to make sure, just tell Patrick to go ahead and keep that -- keep the volume down low so that way there won't be any feedback.

NEWBURY: All right. I've got the remote.

SINGER: OK, great. OK, Donald, at this point why don't you go ahead. I have the time keeper waiting. If you could, go ahead and when I end go ahead and start with your five minutes, all right?

NEWBURY: All right.

SINGER: All right. Go ahead, sir.

NEWBURY: Well, the way I see it is I had to make a statement. Our judicial system in the state of Texas has really gone to the pits. We're receiving 99 years for a robbery for $68, nobody's injuried -- injured. There's no proof that a gun was used in the robbery other than an unreliable witness that faked out several IDs and every thing before. Which created a statement through information -- my priors and everything else -- that apparently the prosecutor had given to him, which is strictly against the law as well. We have a Texas ranger, he admitted in trial that the evidence was tainted, yet I received 99 years.

The same day I went to trial, there was a man cut another man's nuts off, during an aggravated robbery of a convenience store, and got 40 years. I don't see how the system is actually working. It is - it's fallen. I don't hold it against the administration or the officers involved in what we're doing.

I've done crime needs -- you know, got to face the music. But there's got to be something within reason in the state of Texas. They're giving kids so much time that they will never get to see light again. Their life is gone. Now all they are is a roach in a cage. Things got to be changed. There needs to be more rehabilitation in the system down there.

You know I can't -- couldn't even go to college. "Oh, no, you can't go to college, come on." Where's the rehabilitation? When you can't even help yourself. The whole things from the beginning -- from the -- our self-extraction from the unit that was done very peacefully as possible. We hurt the officers very little on that -- that was only the ones that resisted.

It could have been a bloodbath. We could have been out of there in 30 minutes instead of two and a half hours. We took time to take these people and do it gently, instead of 30 minutes.

We are not trying to start a big bum rush, but I have a feeling that -- that the fences are fixed to be rushed hard because of the time they are given.

And even if you do make parole, the way they got the system set up is going to make you fall. I have been told to quit my jobs and stuff like that by parole officers. What kind of system tells you, look, you are doing good. You are earning $8 an hour. You know, you just got out of the joint. Quit your job. I don't understand it.

The system needs to be checked. It needs to be rebuilt and reconstructed. I am not saying do away with it or nothing else. I am just saying make something that will work. The Texas system is not working. I had to threaten to beat my attorneys -- beat my attorney up. So I could get another attorney, because my first attorney has spent three months and hadn't even come talk to me. What kind of judicial system that gives you a defense that won't even show up? All right. Hello?

SINGER: Hello. I am here.

NEWBURY: All right.

SINGER: I am here. I am listening to you. I just didn't want to interrupt you.

NEWBURY: All right. Pretty much what I've got to say is -- is we had a statement to make that the system is as corrupt as we are. You going to do something about us, well do something about that system too. It is going to take the public. And it's going to take a lot of screaming and hollering.

And the reason I am stepping out these doors tonight is not for fear, because I have been set for the last 40 days to die. I am stepping out of these doors with the sole purpose of honoring the person I love and to keep my voice in the media.

I am going to start writing. I am going to -- I am probably going -- we're -- we're both going to -- we're going to keep screaming. We're going to start trying to get something changed. Something has got to change. You are killing people. Not only killing people that did something wrong. You are tearing families apart.

There is one incident where a guy got parole. He got there, got dressed up to go out to see his -- his mother and -- and stuff out there. And they turn around and turn him back in, sent him back to his unit. What kind of mental anguish -- what kind of cruelty is that? That's the same as public hangings, except you are tearing up families too.

SINGER: All right, Donald, at this point...


SINGER: ... I -- I -- the timekeeper has indicated to me that you have made your five-minute statement.


SINGER: You and Patrick, as part of your commitment with the negotiating team and -- and basically your -- your commitment with 11 News and myself...


SINGER: ... as honorable men, you must go outside immediately...

NEWBURY: No problem.

SINGER: ... to resolve the situation peacefully and at this point without weapons. And, as per your agreement, don't hang up the phone though.


SINGER: If you could go ahead and just honor your agreement so that way we can all end this situation peacefully. Your message and Patrick's message have gotten across.

NEWBURY: Thank you.

SINGER: Thank you, sir.

NEWBURY: All right. I am going to put the phone down and then stand up and take my shirt off, and get the door ready to come out.

SINGER: Absolutely. Please leave the phone -- do not hang up the phone. Thank you, sir.

NEWBURY: I won't.

SINGER: OK. At this point...


BUCKLEY: Shortly after that, anchor Eric Singer concluded his interview with Donald Newbury. And Newbury stepped out with Patrick Murphy and both were taken into custody.

That is the latest here from Colorado Springs, and we'll have continuing live coverage. Linda and Jason, back to you.

CARROLL: All right. Thanks very much, Frank Buckley, coming to us live from Colorado Springs.

And just before that interview that you heard there, Lieutenant Skip Arms had also given a statement saying that he knew that it was a potentially dangerous situation. But he said that the ultimate goal was to resolve the situation peacefully. He said that over the past several hours, the police had established trust and credibility with these two men. And they said that they had made this arrangement, that after the interview, the two men would give themselves up peacefully. And that's indeed what has happened.

STOUFFER: And keep in mind these two men, as far as investigators are concerned were men who were convicted of felony charges, escaped from prison in South Texas. And they are also accused of killing a police officer in Irving, Texas on Christmas Eve. So an unusual deal that they were able...

CARROLL: Very unusual.

STOUFFER: ... to strike with them. But again, it ended peacefully. No shots were fired in Colorado Springs. And the last of the seven men, who escaped from prison in South Texas in mid-December, are now in custody in Colorado.



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