DALLAS – A man who lived across the alley from a sporting goods store where a police officer was slain testified Tuesday that he heard several volleys of gunfire, then saw four men rushing around the back of the store.
"One had his hand up and it appeared he was firing back toward the building," Marquis Washington testified on the second day of the capital murder trial of prison escapee George Rivas.
The defendant is alleged to have been the ringleader of a gang of seven Texas convicts who escaped from a maximum-security prison and evaded authorities for weeks before they were tracked down in Colorado.
Rivas is charged with killing Officer Aubrey Hawkins, who was shot 11 times during the Christmas Eve robbery of the Oshman's Sporting Goods store in Irving. He already is serving one of 17 life sentences, most of them for armed robbery; if convicted in Hawkins' death, he could face the death penalty.
Rivas has admitted shooting Hawkins, and prosecutors will show jurors the 21-page statement he gave to police. His lawyer says the shooting was unplanned.
On Monday, witnesses testified that the inmates ran the robbery like a military operation, lining up 16 employees, ordering them into a break room and tying them up together.
"I thought I was going to die," Oshman's area manager John Lindley testified. "I thought they were lining us up to shoot us."
Sandra Rodriguez testified that at one point she noticed that a friend's fingers were tied so tightly they were turning blue. She said she "got hysterical" and demanded Rivas cut her friend's fingers loose. He agreed.
Lead defense attorney Wayne Huff pointed to that episode as a sign that Rivas and the others never intended to hurt anyone.
"They wanted to get the property, get away from Oshman's and get out of town," Huff said.
Oshman's manager Wes Ferris testified Monday that Rivas led the methodical, 33-minute robbery.
"He did all the talking, telling us what to do and when to do it," Ferris said, adding that Rivas warned him not to try to thwart the robbery. "He said 'Don't try it. If you do, I'll have to shoot you and if I shoot you, I'll shoot everybody."'
The seven convicts escaped from a south Texas prison on Dec. 13. Six of them were caught in Colorado six weeks later, and the seventh committed suicide as authorities closed in.
The other five also face capital murder charges and will be tried separately.