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Taking precautions : Escapees on loose keeping police, people wary in county

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RUSTY WELLER
Ellis County Press Managing Editor
GLENN HEIGHTS — Guns drawn, police officers tactically approached the shop's front door.

A silent alarm had signaled a holdup in progress at Classic Tan and Nails. With seven escaped convicts possibly loose in the Metroplex, the four Glenn Heights officers were intent.

In position on each side of the door, they paused, eyes darting to see if everyone was ready to enter. Danger definitely was in the air.

Just then the door opened! A woman carrying a baby stepped out of the shop. Startled to see drawn weapons, she recoiled.

An officer quickly led the woman off to the side out of harm's way, and attention again was focused on the door. After another pulse-pounding pause, the officers acted as a unit and entered the establishment …

False alarm! No robbery was occurring inside. A child somehow had tripped the alarm.

With welcome sighs of relief, the tension quickly melted.

But the danger remains with the escapees still at large, and Ellis County law enforcement officials and many residents are taking extra care as they go through their daily routines.

Stumped authorities are urging people to call the toll-free hotline - 1-800-737-8143 - or 911 with tips, and $200,000 in reward has been offered.

Nothing has come of numerous reported sightings of the men, who are believed to be heavily armed and in possession of $70,000 stolen from a sporting goods store where an Irving police officer was killed Dec. 24.

They fled the Connally Unit in South Texas on Dec. 13 after overpowering civilian workers and a guard and grabbing a pickup and firearms.

Investigators chasing the most dangerous gang to cross Texas since the 1930s, have no hard evidence the seven left the area. Law enforcement officials must operate as if the escapees are still around, especially since reported sightings at San Marcos, in Colorado, Oklahoma and Louisiana turned out to be unfounded or cases of mistaken identity.

'There are certain assumptions we have to go on, concentrating the search efforts in the DFW Metroplex and north-central Texas in general and then spreading out from there,'' said Irving police spokesman David Tull.

Two of the escapees are convicted killers; two more are rapists. One is a child abuser, another is a kidnapper; the other, a robber.

George Rivas, 30, serving a life sentence for aggravated robbery and kidnapping in El Paso, allegedly is the ringleader.

The others are Larry Harper, 37, serving 50 years for aggravated sexual assault in El Paso; Randy Halprin, 23, serving 30 years for injury to a child; Michael Rodriguez, 38, life for capital murder in San Antonio; Donald Newbury, 38, serving 99 years for aggravated robbery; Joseph Garcia, 29, serving 50 years for murder in San Antonio; and Patrick Henry Murphy Jr., serving 50 years for aggravated sexual assault with a deadly weapon and burglary in Dallas.

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