Member of 'Texas Seven' executed 18 years after police murder

Washington (AFP) - Texas executed a man Tuesday who, along with six others known as the "Texas Seven," killed a police officer during a 2000 crime spree before being arrested thanks in part to the television program "America's Most Wanted."

Joseph Garcia, 47, was executed by lethal injection and pronounced dead at 6:43 pm local time (0043 GMT) in the death chamber in Huntsville.

Sentenced to 50 years in prison for killing a friend during a fight, Garcia and six other inmates at the Connally high-security prison in southern Texas participated in an infamous escape.

The men attacked guards for their uniforms and forced another to open the door. One of the men's fathers was waiting in a car outside.

To finance their post-escape trip, the "Texas Seven" looted retail businesses, and on Christmas Eve, they attacked a sporting goods store in a Dallas suburb.

As the men fled the scene, they killed Aubrey Hawkins, a young police officer who had been called in for reinforcement and who was showered with bullets and hit by a 4x4 plank of wood.

Authorities launched a manhunt, offering a $100,000 reward, which eventually grew to $500,000 for information on the gang.

After the airing of an episode of "America's Most Wanted" -- a popular program dedicated to the search for dangerous criminals -- several people reported crossing paths with the fugitives.

Six weeks after their escape, the men were apprehended in Colorado, and one of them killed himself during the arrest.

The survivors were found guilty of the officer's murder and sentenced to death.

Three have already been executed and two more remain on death row.

Garcia's lawyers argued that he did not fire the fatal shots and so should be spared, filing an unsuccessful last-minute appeal with the Supreme Court to suspend the execution.