The Daring Escape of the
Kenedy, Texas, the largest city in Karnes County, with a population of 3,763, is located in South Texas, some 62 miles southeast of San Antonio, and serves as an economic hub for the outlying agricultural and ranching area. First known as Kenedy Junction when the community was founded as a town site in 1886, its early growth was rapid due to its position on a major stop on the San Antonio and Arkansas Pass Railroad. With the growth came the bad guys, mostly gunfighters, and by the turn of the century Kenedy was being referred to as "Six Shooter Junction." With little else besides agriculture and ranching to support its economy, the area remained primarily rural in nature and did not grow as quickly as communities in other parts of the state.
By the time World War II arrived, the community became the home of the Kenedy Internment Camp. Originally built as a Conservation Corps Camp (CCC), the internment camp materialized after the U.S. Government persuaded a number of Latin American countries to send people of the German, Japanese, and Italian persuasions to the U.S. so that they could be exchanged for Allied prisoners, particularly with Japan. The first 700 or so internees arrived in April 1942, and the camp's population swelled to about 2,000 internees by the following year. The Japanese internees ran a 32-acre vegetable farm located nearby, and the German internees ran a slaughterhouse. Today a residential area occupies the site.
Nearly a century after being nicknamed "Six Shooter Junction," Kenedy still has a large number of bad guys in its midst. Few people paid them any mind, however, because everyone believed that they could be kept safely confined behind the walls of the John Connally Unit, a maximum-security prison located just outside of town and operated under the jurisdiction of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, with little or no chance of escape. Until recently most people, with the exception of those residing in the region, hadn't even heard of Kenedy, Texas. That all changed, however, on Wednesday, December 13, 2000, when seven of society's lowest dregs decided that they would stage a brazen, commando-like prison break, a breakout that was orchestrated with such military precision and efficiency, some would say, must have taken a year or longer in the planning.
December 13 turned out to be a particularly cold day in Kenedy. The temperature remained below 30 degrees during the early morning hours, between midnight and 4 a.m., and it only warmed up to the low 40s by that afternoon. It rained more than an inch in South Texas that morning, and brought with it the threat of icy conditions. Because of the inclement weather conditions, prisoners of the Connally Unit's inside yard squad were not required to turn out for their work duties. Other prisoners, however, whose work duties were normally performed indoors, were not affected by the weather restriction.
George Rivas, 30, inmate number 702267, serving 99 years for the crimes of aggravated kidnapping and burglary that he had committed in El Paso, was tired of life behind prison walls. Although he had attained trustee status and worked in the prison's maintenance department, considered one of the best duty assignments in the prison, he had become disillusioned with the grim prospect of never walking the streets a free man again and spending his nights confined to an austere eight foot by eight foot cell equipped with only a bunk, a wash basin, and a toilet. He was sick of the lousy food that was typically served in the prison's mess hall, and he was tired of hearing the metal doors slide shut when returned to his cell at lockdown. Rivas had been making plans for some time, along with six other inmates, to do something about it, and he had decided that this was the day to carry out his plans.