Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Daring Escape of the
Texas 7

Out of the Gate

Rivas and Halprin climbed out of the gator and brought with them monitors and electrical wire as they entered the gatehouse. They opened the back door of the gatehouse and allowed the two inmates dressed in prison whites accompanying them to enter with them. Before officer Janssen could ask for identification, one of the supposed "civilians," inmate Halprin, began examining an electrical outlet in the office area near Janssen's desk. As he was doing so, the telephone on the desk rang and Halprin answered it. Unknown to Janssen, the phone call had been placed by one of the inmates who had remained behind in the maintenance department. Posing as a maintenance supervisor, he wanted to know whether the crew had arrived at the back gate. Halprin handed the phone to Janssen and related the message, throwing Janssen off guard and further delaying any attempts that Janssen might make in requesting identification.

As Janssen leaned over to take the call, Rivas grabbed him from behind, placed him in a headlock, and forced him to the floor. It all happened so quickly that Janssen's reactions were rendered useless against his attackers. They removed his uniform pants and shoes, bound his arms and legs, taped his mouth with duct tape, and carried him into the gatehouse restroom and secured the door from the outside.

Satisfied that Janssen could not escape, Halprin walked up to the exterior gate and identified himself as a maintenance worker. Officer Gips looked around from his vantage point above the compound to make certain that there were no inmates in the area and, recalling that he had seen one of the maintenance supervisors earlier that day dressed in the same clothing and cap and thinking that this was the same person that he had seen earlier, opened the outside gate and unwittingly allowed Halprin to leave the area. He then opened the picket door, which allowed Halprin to enter the tower. As Halprin climbed the tower's stairs, the telephone rang. When Gips answered, the caller identified himself as a maintenance supervisor.

"Has the maintenance staff arrived at your location?" the caller asked. "I need to speak to one of them."

When Halprin took the phone and began talking, he removed his jacket and placed it on a chair in the tower and at the same time grabbed a .357 caliber revolver that was lying on the desk. Halprin pointed the gun at Gips.

"This is an escape," he said. "You need to cooperate if you don't want to get hurt."

Murphy, one of the inmates dressed in prison whites, yelled up at the tower to open the gate. But Halprin didn't know how to operate the controls.

"You either show me how to open the picket door and vehicle gate," Halprin told Gips while pointing the gun at him, "or I'm going to kill you."

Fearing for his life, Gips complied.

"Now where are the rest of the guns?" Halprin asked.

Gips told him that they were stored at the bottom of the tower. Halprin ordered Gips to go downstairs and show him, after which Halprin used Gips' belt and shoestrings to tie him up. Murphy then collected the guns, which consisted of a Remington 12-gauge pump-action shotgun with 14 rounds of 00 buckshot, an AR-15 Colt Sport Target Model .223-caliber with 15 rounds of ammunition, and 14 Smith & Wesson Model 67 .357 Magnum revolvers with 210 rounds of ammunition.

Halprin then placed a call to the maintenance department and told his accomplices that it was now safe to leave.

The other three inmates drove out of the maintenance garage and picked up Rivas, Halprin, Murphy, and the other inmate. Carrying the cache of weapons and ammunition taken from the guard tower, the group of escapees that would quickly become known as The Texas 7 drove out of the prison's back gate in the white Texas Department of Criminal Justice truck and down the perimeter road to freedom, launching one of the largest manhunts in U.S. history. Some would compare it to the breakout at Alcatraz decades earlier.

As the investigation into the escape began, it was quickly discovered that the escaped prisoners had left behind three notes. They wrote, in part, about the harshness of the Texas prison system and about creating a revolution within the Connally Unit, and in another quoted a line from the Kris Kristofferson song, Me & Bobby McGee: "Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose." And in a third note they boldly stated: "You haven't heard the last of us, yet...."