The Daring Escape of the
An Embarrassed Warden
As Rivas, Murphy, Halprin, Rodriguez, Newbury, Garcia, and Harper were speeding down the perimeter road, officer Lou Gips had managed to free himself and ran up the stairs to the top of the guard tower. He could see the prisoners in the white truck from his vantage point, and used his handheld radio to request assistance. He reported that he was watching them drive past the 19 building, just outside of the compound, heading toward the road that leads into town.
Warden Timothy B. Keith was with a police officer on prison grounds when he heard Gips' distress call over the radio. Not only was it a matter of grave concern, it was an embarrassment to have something like this occur in the presence of an outsider. On the other hand, the local police officer was able to quickly notify others in the local law enforcement community to be on the lookout for a white Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) truck. Warden Keith immediately ordered a lockdown.
Meanwhile, correctional officer Barton Olsen, assigned to oversee the community work squad, was on his way back to the prison when he heard one of the reports about the escape on his hand-held radio. It was approximately 2 p.m., and the escapees had only been outside the prison compound for a few minutes when Olsen recalled seeing the white truck in downtown Kenedy, near City Hall. At the time he had merely thought prison employees were driving it on legitimate business, but after hearing the reports on his radio he realized it was the truck being sought. He immediately reported what he had seen with specific directions to where he had seen the truck. However, by the time the local police responded, the truck was already gone from that area.
Within the hour every available law enforcement officer in the area was mobilized and on the lookout for the seven escapees. The Karnes County Sheriff's Department was brought in, as was the Texas Highway Patrol (Department of Public Safety), and a white prison bus dropped every available officer from the prison one thousand feet apart along Texas Highway 99, which runs northeast/southeast and connects to major interstates, to stand watch and help comb the area. Motorists were stopped along every road that cut through this flat farmland area, which is punctuated by only an occasional home amid stands of barren trees that had gone dormant because of winter's chill. Identification was checked and car trunks searched as motorists headed into or out of the area.