|Editions | myCNN | Video | Audio | Headline News Brief | Feedback||
Texas Escapees: Search Intensifies for Two Convicts After Van FoundAired January 23, 2001 - 2:59 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, Lou Waters again at CNN Center. "TALKBACK LIVE" is being delayed because of developments out in Colorado, including the discovery of a van by authorities linked to the two Texas prison escapees that are still on the loose. That van has been found in a parking lot of a Quality Inn motel along Interstate 25. And we are expecting now to hear from the special agent in charge of the FBI in Denver about what's going on.
MARK MERSHON, FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Certainly, capturing the most prolific in recent history. Again, the agenda this afternoon. We do have a significant development, the Colorado Springs Police Department, we believe, has located the van used by the two subjects there, as we say, in the wind. We will talk to that. The evidentiary findings that -- the inside and around the recreational vehicle found near Woodland Park. The status of our fugitive investigation with the continued cooperation, and because so many are interested in the criminal justice legal status of our four subjects in custody, we do have Tom Strickland, our U.S. attorney for the district of Colorado, and he can best address that.
In addition to virtually to every state, local, and county police agency in Colorado, certainly the Colorado Springs Police Department has conducted an exhaustive search, street by street, trying to help locate this missing van. The van, I must say, was most recently believed to be in the Colorado Springs area. We now have what we believe is that van located and it is, as of about 6:00 this morning, that's as recently as we can place it there. We are still working on this, of course. It is off the -- off of I-25, the Garden of the God's exit -- in or near a parking lot for a restaurant known as the Hungry Farmer.
Visually looking into the vehicle, preparatory to a formal search, we noticed that there are two containers of hair dye, blonde in color. That certainly increases our interest and suspicion. We are concerned that this may be used as a -- or may have been in exchange for a switch vehicle. So we are in follow-up to this, of course, interested in stolen automobiles, especially in the area surrounding and in Colorado Springs. We are interested in the reports of car-jackings or attempted car-jackings, missing persons, including perhaps elderly, that, you know, the kids or grand kids haven't heard from, so we certainly want folks to be attuned to that. We will continue to conduct a neighborhood investigation for individuals who may have observed something that is out of the ordinary or perhaps or even so are the subjects.
Evidentiary findings, as you know -- we have the FBI Evidence Response team that responded following the barricaded subject situation in Woodland Park. They have processed, through the night, the recreation vehicle, and we will tell you that, as part of our inventory of the search, in addition, of course, to the deceased, Harper, who took his own life, there were 35 weapons in there. They were loaded, they were cocked and ready for action as we say.
There were shotguns, including some that we believe had been sawed off by the subjects themselves; assault rifles; handguns; thousands of rounds of ammunition; $10,000 in U.S. currency, approximately, and this is very significant; receipts for ballistic undergarments, what commonly are known in the public as bulletproof vests, purchased recently in the cities of Denver and Aurora; a suicide note; a number of two-way hand-held radios, as you might purchase in Radio Shack; hair coloring also in this RV, and a medical kit, which was far more than a -- far more than a first aid kit.
As I said, yesterday, we thank you for following this. This has been a model of cooperation. Sheriff Frank Fehn in Teller County first got the information. He called in the FBI through the state system of mutual aid. He called in Sheriff John Anderson in adjacent El Paso County, and we have worked together. The U.S. Marshal service has assisted, the Colorado State Patrol, and I will tell you that we are very, very saddened to hear of the loss of one our state troopers today. I am sure that this word is out, but there was a state trooper on I-70 near the Eisenhower Tunnel, who was assisting and attempting a vehicle stop of a look alike van, which we now believe not to be related to this. And tragically, he was -- that state trooper was killed in an auto accident. The Marshal service, and, of course, the ATF has assisted in the -- in the examination and the cataloguing of the weapons.
As I say, tactically, we had our three SWAT Teams: Teller County and El Paso County and the FBI merged together, in what would seem to be a seamless operation affected the very dangerous felony vehicle stop, utilizing the El Paso SWAT Team -- that was their assigned roll in the evident that eventuality happened; it did. They performed flawlessly, and so overwhelmed the three subjects, although it looked to us, that they initially considered a gun battle, they did give it up, and we're very pleased to hear that. We quickly placed a perimeter around this RV, and leaving no possibility for the two subjects that turned out to be in there to escape. We are negotiators -- the FBI negotiators went to work -- very proud of what they did -- happy that it did result in one -- one of the subjects giving it up. The other saw things differently, of course, and chose to take his own life.
That model of cooperation continues today. All over of the state -- in fact all over of the region -- many, many agencies are running down scores, probably hundred of leads, and we're very patient with this. We understand that reported look alikes and vehicle sightings most often don't pan out. We ask the public's continued cooperation. We believe that we have the vehicle now, but we've worked just tremendously well with the Denver Police Department, Colorado Springs, the state patrol, of course, and other agencies and ask that the public remain diligent, and we remind the police community to be oh, so careful to stay focused, reminding of those weapons that we know to be in the possession still of the two subjects, the ballistic armor, and their very aggravated criminal history.
Now, if you will allow, we have our United States attorney for the District of Colorado, Tom Strickland. And he will discuss with you the legal status of the UFAP -- unlawful flight charges the FBI has pending against these four subjects in custody, as well as ATF charges, that I think have been filed in the state of Texas -- Tom Strickland.
TOM STRICKLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY: Thank you.
Thank you, Mark. Good afternoon. Let me start by acknowledging, as Mark did, the extraordinary cooperate efforts between state and federal law enforcement, and also to recognize the terrific done by the FBI and accomplishing what's been accomplished today, and we hope and pray that the remainder of the fugitives are brought in without any loss or injury to anyone. We are committed to having that level of cooperation continue as we deal with the individuals that are now in custody and those who may be in our custody in the near future, we hope.
There are both state and federal charges pending against the four individuals in custody. The state charges for capital murder of officer Aubrey Hawkins -- he was the Irving, Texas police officer who was killed as part of the robbery, as you all know. Those state murder charges are pending in Texas. In addition, there are unlawful flight charges that were filed by United States attorney's office for the district -- Northern District of Texas. We've been in touch with Paul Coggins, who is the U.S. attorney in Dallas, and we've been discussing this case.
There are also federal charges pending in the Western District of Texas. The United States attorney's office for the Western District of Texas for felons or fugitives in possession of firearms. So, there are two sets of federal charges that were pending at the time that these individuals were apprehended and one set of state charges. After coordination and communication with James Blag (ph), the United States attorney -- Paul Coggins, U.S. attorney out of the Dallas, and our office in consultation with the district attorney's office in Irving, Texas.
The decision has been made that the state of Texas has the dominant or primary interest -- the compelling interest in pursuing the case for murder against these individuals. So, all federal charges at this time are in the process of being dropped. That includes the unlawful flight charges that were filed by Dallas -- the U.S. attorneys office there, and felon possession charges that were filed out of San Antonio. As a result, these individuals, the process for transferring them to Texas is pursuant to the interstate compact that governs the movement of prisoners between states.
What will happen at this time is that the governor of Texas will request from the governor of Colorado that these four individuals be transferred to Texas. The governor Owens will issue a warrant directing that that happen, and that will be executed. The defendants, of course, can waive this process, which will accelerate the transfer of these individuals to Texas. Normally, the process takes anywhere from 30-90 days.
So at this time, the case will be handled at the state level in Irving, Texas. We think that's the dominant law enforcement interest in the case. I am happy to respond to any questions directed to the status of these proceedings, and I am sure Mark is on his part.
MERSHON: If I can just add one thing. Earlier -- this has undergone an evolution. We did think earlier that there would be extradition under federal charges, so, any apologies. This has been kind of an evolution, as I they say.
QUESTION: Will there be any court appearances in Colorado?
STRICKLAND: Yes. I should acknowledge the efforts of Jeanne Smith, the district attorney in El Paso and Teller counties. There will be an initial appearance or arraignment on the state charges, we think, in the next 24 hours or sometime in the nest 24 hours down in -- that will be down in Colorado Springs, Teller County.
QUESTION: How important is the finding of this van in terms of evidence that you are...
MERSHON: Say again.
QUESTION: How important is the finding of this van?
MERSHON: Well, it tell us we're not looking for the van anymore, and I know that that may sound facetious. It's not meant to be. But it helps us focus resources in other areas. For example, our belief would be that they have an alternate means of transportation if they haven't gone to ground quite locally.
So, as I say, we're looking for stolen vehicles. We're looking for train and bus passengers. There's a number of avenues that we will have to pursue now that we know that's not a primary interest.
QUESTION: Can you clarify -- you mentioned the van was there around 6:00. Had it been there before 6:00 a.m.? I mean, was it there yesterday at all possibly or do we know for sure that it wasn't there yesterday?
MERSHON: We're still working with the Colorado Springs Police Department, and the best that we know now is that we can confirm it was there as of 6:00 this morning. The neighborhood, the restaurant employees will be interviewed, et cetera as we try to establish a time frame when it may have appeared there.
But we think that it was as recently as Sunday morning up at the RV park. Again, that's a little tentative, but that's our time frame we're working with.
QUESTION: How did they get the van and how did they get the RV? Where did they come from?
MERSHON: At this point, we don't know where their two or their three vehicles came from. That's under investigation.
QUESTION: Stolen or...
MERSHON: We don't know yet.
QUESTION: Any idea why Woodland Park?
MERSHON: Speculation would be that they wanted to maintain an obscure existence. As we know, that's a rural, mountainous area. With the weather conditions at this time, most folks seem to stay inside. So, we think they wanted to maintain a very low profile until the heat died down, to use an expression.
QUESTION: How did the subjects trade the three vehicles for the prison Suburban in Fort Carson and if so, how did they do it without a title?
MERSHON: I'm sorry. Say that again.
QUESTION: Didn't the suspects trade the three vehicles for the Suburban or vice versa? They traded the Suburban for the three vehicles.
MERSHON: Literally a trade.
QUESTION: Fort Carson trade or sale and how did they do that?
MERSHON: That's not information that I have at this point and I mean, if you're ahead of me, I apologize. But that's not known to me.
QUESTION: How about the...
QUESTION: ... the search in other states? You've talked about Colorado.
MERSHON: Well, with the media attention, which we are profoundly grateful of, we often get reports that turn out to be an error. I won't call them false. They're all well-spirited certainly by good- minded citizens. But many of them are, of course, mutually exclusive. We are patient. We do a little a triage of our own to try to determine which are the most worthy of the earliest coverage, but we also try our best to coverage all such leads, and the sightings, as we say, mostly turn out to be inaccurate.
QUESTION: Have you ruled out the possibility that one of those guys might have had a friend or relative in this area?
MERSHON: We certainly have not ruled that out. I have had discussions with the Sheriff Fehn down in Teller County, pretty pointed discussions but have no details to release along that line of any aiding or abetting of the fugitives.
QUESTION: You said that you knew they came from...
MERSHON: I'll give the approximate numbers. We believe that about 12 of them came from the Department of Corrections in Texas and we believe that approximately 20 came from the -- the armed robbery of that -- of that sporting goods store in Northern Texas.
QUESTION: What about the rest of them?
QUESTION: What about the rest of the guns?
MERSHON: Well, we know that there was a weapon taken from the slain police officer. We don't believe that's been recovered yet.
QUESTION: What about the -- I mean, you had numerous weapons. i mean, were they stealing them from people? Were they buying them, I mean, or...
MERSHON: That we know of, they took some from the Department of Corrections and they took others from the robbery of that sporting goods store. If there are other sources of those weapons I'm not aware of them at this time.
QUESTION: Do you have evidence that the fugitives committed any other crimes in and around the Colorado area that...
MERSHON: I'm not prepared to tell that you we have them focused as subjects of other investigations, but we are very open to that possibility. However, with the cash that they did accumulate, with the weapons, I think that there wasn't necessarily a crime spree, certainly.
QUESTION: You said have receipts from the body armor in Denver stores. What kinds of stores did they come from? Can you give us an example?
MERSHON: This is a very, very fresh evidence to me. So, I don't have the details of those receipts, just that multiple purchases of body armor from Denver and Aurora area stores. That's all I have.
QUESTION: Can I talk to the U.S. attorney?
MERSHON: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: If there is so much interest in Texas to take these individuals back to the prison in Texas, why is it going to take from 30 to 90 days to take them back?
STRICKLAND: Well, as I said, if the defendants waive the process, they can be transferred back much more quickly. But the -- it's the normal -- it's the normal weaving of the process. It takes time to unfold, and the process entitles defendants an opportunity to be heard. The various court proceedings and documents have to be requested from the governor of Texas, governor of...
QUESTION: But we have executive orders here. We have the two governors working together.
STRICKLAND: And it may well go more quickly. I'm just saying that in the normal case, it's a 30 to 90 day, and sometimes even longer process if the defendants are resisting that. So, I'm just giving you the framework. We would hope it would be done more quickly.
One of the reasons we were looking at maintaining federal charges at least preliminarily was to move them back to Texas via federal process, the removal process, which is very quick. But we didn't want to -- it was a collective judgment of the federal and state law enforcement and prosecutorial offices that from the outset this should be handled as a state of Texas prosecution matter for the district attorney in Irving, Texas. That the preeminent law enforcement issue at this time.
QUESTION: How much of a head start do you think those two had before surveillance began at the motor home?
MERSHON: Well, as -- we preliminarily believe, we think the van and therefore the subjects may have been at the RV park, say, early Sunday morning. They departed about that time, and, well, the math would indicate they've had perhaps 48 or more hours' lead on us.
QUESTION: What did you think led them to leave?
MERSHON: That we don't know. We don't know. We know that they left periodically, but we don't know why or what their destination or their agenda.
QUESTION: What have the four captured convicts told you? have they confessed anything? Have they told you about their plans?
MERSHON: Thanks for that question. The important clarification here, this is group of seven that escaped and for a group to escape like that in numbers is perhaps not so unusual, but for them to bond so well that they would stay together and continue to associate together in their fugitive status is extremely unusual. I think it's probably unique to our recollection here.
Their cooperation, we believe, is inspired based on what they told us in a genuine hope that their criminal associates would be safely apprehended. They told us how, you know, how they were armed and certain other information when we had two subjects that were in the RV gave us some suggestions on negotiating with them, get them this touch, get one in touch with the father, for example. It wasn't successful, but it seems to be a genuine effort for us to result in a safe apprehension.
QUESTION: What did they tell you about the weapons?
MERSHON: They have, we believe, a dozen or more weapons; assault rifles, shotguns and handguns.
QUESTION: Any body armor?
MERSHON: Certainly, the body armor is unaccounted for. So, we believe that that is with them.
QUESTION: Do you have reason to believe they are together?
MERSHON: We have no reason to indicate why they would split up after this association of escape, crime, living in fugitive status. It's our working hypothesis that they are in fact still together.
QUESTION: ... possible desperation they may begin to feel -- are your profilers telling you anything about how to proceed with regard to them and their mental status?
MERSHON: I won't say our profilers, but cumulative knowledge of the police business tells us that these are potentially extremely dangerous individuals. Their associates, who are in custody now, tell us the same thing as well. They have lengthy criminal histories. They are serving serious, serious time. Now they are alleged to be involved in brutal slaying of a police officer. We have to assume that they are desperate.
QUESTION: Any idea what they're using for identification?
MERSHON: We have no idea how they are identifying themselves. We are keenly aware that they may attempt to mask or change their physical appearance; hair color, hair length, facial hair that type of thing.
QUESTION: It was reported they were coming to Denver to get some kind of fake ID's. Any possible stories developing here in the area in which people have been apprehended in producing fake identification cards from real cards like driver's licenses?
MERSHON: The information about an agenda in Denver as to false identification or employment did not come from the FBI. And I have nothing that I can tell you that would support that.
QUESTION: ... show any evidence that they had used -- that they had used any of the medical supplies?
MERSHON: I can't answer that. But we do have one of our subjects who surrendered who had a gunshot wound to the area of the foot.
MERSHON: No, we believe that took place on Christmas Eve in the encounter with the police officer in Irving, Texas.
QUESTION: Has Rivas spoke to how he decided to choose these people, if he is in fact the ringleader? How did he choose them? How is it that they came
MERSHON: I'm not prepared to discuss anything beyond the cooperation to help bring in the other two suspects.
MERSHON: I don't have that information readily at hand.
QUESTION: What are the chances that they are in Colorado or out, meaning, are you focusing more still on the state?
MERSHON: This is driven by classic police work, as we try to run down associates, family, relatives, places where they have had roots, and, frankly, in large part by the public's cooperation, as they keep an active lookout. So the investigation is perhaps most intense in the state of Colorado right now. And as you get to the adjacent states, it's certainly still intense there. As you get further out in a radius, it perhaps becomes less intense. But this is a nationwide manhunt to this day.
QUESTION: ... survivalist groups? And, if so, the body armor, would that be potentially be a source of that?
MERSHON: I can't answer that question, sir.
QUESTION: Do you have them in Denver, in Aurora, the 48 hours since they left Woodland Park -- or before?
MERSHON: I can't answer that definitively.
QUESTION: Mr. Strickland, just because the federal charges were dropped to facilitate extradition, does that mean they would not necessarily be reintroduced once they are back in Texas?
STRICKLAND: I don't think the charges -- I believe the charges that have been dropped would not be reintroduced. If there are additional crimes that are committed by the two that are at large, that would always be open for consideration. They have obviously committed federal crimes.
As I mentioned, they were charged out of the Western District of Texas with being felons in possession of weapons. And that is a federal crime with severe penalties. But realistically, they pale in comparison to the charges they are going to face regarding their escape and the murder of the police officer. But that is -- that remains an open question. But at this time, we don't anticipate that this will be handled at the federal level based on what has happened today. QUESTION: So are they all going to charged with first degree murder, or is one being charged with it and the rest for...
STRICKLAND: I would have to direct you to the district attorney in Irving, Texas. That person is in charge.
QUESTION: If they don't fight extradition, could it take -- could it go quicker?
STRICKLAND: Yes, it could go much quicker. I don't know exactly how quick. But it could be days instead of weeks.
QUESTION: Have they had any legal counsel since they have been in custody here?
STRICKLAND: I'm not aware that they have had appointed counsel yet. That should happen relatively quickly now.
QUESTION: ... the four captured convicts, did they say anything else about any other stops they made along the way besides...
MERSHON: I know there were reports of sightings in Durango, the Four Corners area. We have no particular confidence in that. We did investigate that at the time. We frankly do not know their travel agenda, other than the escape on December 13, the robbery in Irving, Texas on the 24th of December, and their arrival in the RV park in Colorado that we spoke of, on January 1, where they spent the last three weeks.
QUESTION: Have they given you any indication? I mean, if they are being cooperative so they get apprehended safely, you would think they would let you know of possible contacts in the Denver-Colorado Springs area. I mean, have they told you about contacts? Or are there none?
MERSHON: I'm not at liberty to discuss anything beyond really the attempts to locate the two remaining fugitives.
QUESTION: Do you expect any arrests for aiding or abetting these fugitives? Or is anyone is custody or being looked at right now?
MERSHON: My conferences may run together, but I know I have said before that I have had discussions with Sheriff Fehn about whether or not there was some aiding and abetting here. We will continue those discussions. Details I can't give you right now.
QUESTION: ... can you talk about what kind of cooperation or what kind of watching is being done on the Mexican, but also the Canadian border? MERSHON: Well, certainly, our authorities and the Mexican authorities would be on high alert for these individuals. And, you know, the cooperation has been seamless, as I say, throughout the law enforcement community. I'm most familiar with it here in the state of Colorado. And I am mightily impressed with how well we have come together and, as I like to say, check the individual and agency egos at the door, put the mission first and work really in a spirit of cooperation.
QUESTION: Are you going to keep them in Teller County or transfer them to another jail, possibly?
MERSHON: Can you answer that best?
STRICKLAND: I believe, at this time, there is no expectation of transferring them. Do we know if they are going to put them -- I think they want -- they want to minimize that. And so the expectation is keep them where they are.
QUESTION: Is there any extra security
QUESTION: They probably usually don't have these type of guys.
MERSHON: Oh, I think they're -- I think they know how to handle diversity out there. And the -- they are well aware that we have two subjects on the loose and will take appropriate precautions.
QUESTION: ... first-aid kit, ammunition and body armor and these weapons -- do you have the sense that they were planning something else?
MERSHON: Well, I think if you look back to their escape, there were some alarming declarations on their part about an agenda. And I don't want to go into that. But right from the get-go, they made it clear this is -- that they were not going to go gently into the night. There was -- we would hear from them again. And, of course, we did Christmas Eve at that sports store: armed robbery and the slaying of the police officer.
MERSHON: I'm sorry. I don't think it's appropriate to discuss the content of the suicide note -- certainly at this occasion.
QUESTION: Did he give you any hints? Or was it just a personal note?
MERSHON: It was a personal note to family.
QUESTION: To who? MERSHON: Family.
QUESTION: How well-armed were the suspects
MERSHON: Believe it or not, we are so thorough in our search procedures that we, just within the hour, have started the formal search of the Cherokee. I can tell you that each of subjects was armed with a semiautomatic handgun. There may be other weapons in that vehicle. I would expect so. But until we have that formal search and an inventory of the search, I can't answer that definitely.
WATERS: That's FBI special agent in charge, Mark Mershon, in Denver at the Federal Building there.
We're going to skip over to Colorado Springs, where another news conference is under way. Lieutenant Skip Arms of the Colorado State Troopers is briefing reporters. Let's check in and see what he has to say.
LT. SKIP ARMS, COLORADO STATE PATROL: The dogs were not here for tracking purpose. They were merely here as support of our tactical unit.
QUESTION: Were the plates on the van stolen?
ARMS: They haven't been reported stolen at this time. However, they do not go with that van.
QUESTION: Any robberies, crimes or stolen cars in the area?
ARMS: We have no reports of stolen vehicles in this area. In the last 24 hours, I think there was six stolen vehicles citywide, but nothing in this immediate vicinity. The last stolen vehicle from anywhere close to here was two days ago.
QUESTION: Frustrating to come so close, or encouraging because you're this close?
QUESTION: What do you need from citizens now?
ARMS: Well, from citizens, we need, obviously, if anybody has any knowledge as to activities of the individuals in this van, if they saw this van occupied by anybody, if they have had any contact with individuals that fit this description, we would have them to call one of those two numbers.
QUESTION: Are you frustrated or encouraged because you are this close?
ARMS: Well, obviously, it's another step closer by getting this vehicle. The downside is that, right now, we are not absolutely certain what they may be traveling in or where they are. So that certainly is information that would help us. You know, I think that, as long as the pressure is on, sooner or later these two individuals will be apprehended.
QUESTION: Do you have any idea what time
(OFF-MIKE) ARMS: No, we don't know. The latest we have now is that when the employees showed up around 6:00, they saw it. It was suspicious. We don't know that it was here last night when they closed up business or not.
QUESTION: When will we know what's inside those duffel bags (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
ARMS: When the vehicle is taken from this location to a secure site and the warrants have been signed, they will go through every piece within the van.
QUESTION: As far as safety, what advice do you have for people in the area?
ARMS: Well, the same general precautions we give on a day-to-day basis, really just be aware of your surroundings. If you see anything suspicious, if you see anybody that is acting suspicious, please don't hesitate to call the Colorado Springs Police Department.
ARMS: That I don't know. I don't have any information on other locations.
ARMS: Lieutenant Skip Arms: a-r-m-s.
ARMS: The canvassing -- I'll take one at a time. The canvassing at this point is being done. There are teams combined from the different agencies that are involved. And obviously, they are going to be following up on information they get. They've been contacting, you know, businesses in the area, what-not, just in an effort to try to see if anybody else has spotted these individuals.
ARMS: I'm not sure what extent they're going with that.
QUESTION: What about (OFF-MIKE)? Do you know anything (OFF- MIKE) related?
ARMS: No, I sure don't. I haven't been told anything by (OFF- MIKE).
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) ARMS: Pardon me?
ARMS: I have been told that both district 11 and district 20 have locked down some of the west side schools.
QUESTION: Have you had a lot of sightings in the area, Skip?
ARMS: I don't know the number of sightings that we've had.
ARMS: The lockdowns are -- apparently the schools have made a decision for the safety of the students that schools on the west side apparently have taken that precaution.
QUESTION: Strictly because of this incident?
ARMS: You'd have to confirm that with them, but that's what I would assume.
QUESTION: Lieutenant, wouldn't it be a good idea to set up checkpoints on interstates and main arterials?
ARMS: With as much time as that's elapsed, I don't know that that would be productive.
QUESTION: No plans to do that?
ARMS: Not that I'm aware of.
ARMS: Was this van stolen? I'm not sure of the origination of this van. So I -- that's something that probably have to come from the FBI.
ARMS: Well, in terms of a vehicle, yes. And the possibility certainly exists that they could have access to another vehicle, and at this point we don't have information on that. If or when we do get that information, we certainly will rely on the media to assist us on getting it out as quickly as possible.
QUESTION: What about the area? Is there a chance that they could be hiding out? I mean, (OFF-MIKE) pretty good area, they could hide in the mountains?
ARMS: Well, at this point, it's anybody's guess. It's just as likely they could be here or they could be in New Mexico or Wyoming.
QUESTION: But compared to other places, this would be a pretty good place to hide out. Is (OFF-MIKE)?
ARMS: They have some familiarity with this area. So, that might help them.
QUESTION: You said (OFF-MIKE) you had (OFF-MIKE)?
ARMS: I don't have that information at this time time. I don't know if they confirmed (OFF-MIKE), but they do know that it doesn't match to this one.
QUESTION: Have you searched that area where that plate might have come from? (OFF-MIKE)
ARMS: If they had that information, I'm sure that they (OFF- MIKE) to do that.
ARMS: Portions of it.
QUESTION: Lieutenant, do you think these men are staying together?
ARMS: I have no way of confirming that at this time.
ARMS: It's my understanding that both district 11 and district 20 locked down some of their schools on the west side of town, west of I-25.
QUESTION: What are the most recent sightings that you have had (OFF-MIKE)? (OFF-MIKE) since the van was called in?
ARMS: That -- I don't know whether they've been before or after the van or not. It's my information that the information we're getting now we're sifting through, and that some of them would have been (UNINTELLIGIBLE) some time this morning or maybe last night.
QUESTION: Is there any indication that they had outside help at this point?
ARMS: We have no information one way or another on that?
QUESTION: Lieutenant, could you repeat what you said about the upsides and the downsides (OFF-MIKE) vehicle?
ARMS: Well, the upside, obviously, we feel that it's getting one step closer. We have taken away some of their equipment. We've, you know, in essence I think kept the heat on them. The downside is that right now that we do not know specifically what vehicle they would be in. And hopefully, as soon as we do get that, we'll replay it out as quickly as possible.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) I understand that there is a rumor that the vehicle may have been spotted here in late afternoon yesterday by a laborer, who thought it was suspicious? (OFF-MIKE) have any knowledge of that?
ARMS: My knowledge, the first information we got was early this morning.
ARMS: We haven't been able to make a correlation between this vehicle and (OFF-MIKE).
QUESTION: Any vehicles stolen? (OFF-MIKE)?
ARMS: No. We've been through that once. The last vehicle stolen in this immediate vicinity, which was still over a mile from here, was two days ago. You know, we have had about six vehicles stolen throughout the city in the last 24 hours or so, but there's no way to connect them to that.
QUESTION: Do you think they must be getting some help?
ARMS: That's hard to say. I mean, obviously, they have been able to remain undetected for some time now. Whether they have been able to do that solely on their own or not, I don't know. I do believe there is some connections here in the state. I don't know exactly where they are.
QUESTION: Is the hotel search complete?
ARMS: It's my understanding that it is and the hotel has been opened back up.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) they went in every room?
ARMS: I'm not sure the extent of it. I think they had information on some specific rooms and I believe they searched those.
QUESTION: And you said no evidence at all that they were ever in (OFF-MIKE)?
ARMS: That's correct. We can't confirm that.
QUESTION: Can we get your name and title (OFF-MIKE) please?
ARMS: Lieutenant Skip Arms, public information officer, Colorado Springs Police Department.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)? Did they focus on a specific room?
ARMS: They focused on specific areas within the hotel, and they conducted a search of those areas and did not find anything that confirmed that they would have been there.
QUESTION: Why did they focus on those areas?
ARMS: Information that was received from the hotel.
QUESTION: You mentioned that...
QUESTION: What specifically?
ARMS: I can't get into that.
QUESTION: You mentioned that the plates didn't match the car. But were the plates stolen?
ARMS: It's my understanding they have not been reported stolen at this time. And I'm not sure if they've actually been able to make contact with the owner of those plates yet or not. It's part of the process. It's probably ongoing.
QUESTION: Have you been able to ascertain where those plates were from? You know, where they would have been?
ARMS: If they have, I don't know have that information yet.
QUESTION: Was the hotel evacuated?
ARMS: Not entirely, just portions of it.
QUESTION: How many people (OFF-MIKE)?
ARMS: I don't know.
QUESTION: Why this hotel when there are about a dozen in the area?
ARMS: I don't have that.
What is that?
QUESTION: Why this specific hotel when there are about a dozen in the immediate vicinity?
ARMS: Well, I believe they've contacted all. I think that there was information that was received here that gave them, I think, because (OFF-MIKE) from Texas, although none of the names matched up. I don't know if we had anymore, but that's I think what they acted on.
QUESTION: Are you compounding the van right now with a tow truck?
ARMS: It'll be taken to a secured site where it will be searched.
QUESTION: Lieutenant, when you said you're canvassing neighborhoods, what do you mean by that? ARMS: They're going around, contacting businesses, trying to obtain any additional information. They may contact some residential areas. I don't know how far that canvassing will go.
QUESTION: So there's nothing that led you to any specific residential areas.
QUESTION: You mentioned (OFF-MIKE)?
ARMS: I believe some of the seven do. I don't have the specifics as to who (OFF-MIKE).
QUESTION: These two?
ARMS: No, I don't. No.
QUESTION: These two?
ARMS: These two specifically I don't know.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) car being found this morning.
ARMS: About what?
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) about the vehicle being found this morning by the employees.
ARMS: When they came into work, they saw the vehicle in the back lot here and they called us.
WATERS: Lieutenant Skip Arms of the Colorado State Troopers. We have state, local police, federal authorities, the FBI, U.S. Marshal Service all concentrating their efforts this afternoon in Colorado Springs, near a Quality motel, where a van believed to be used by the two remaining suspects in the Texas prison break was discovered shortly after 6 o'clock this morning.
But according to Mark Mershon, this continues to be a nationwide manhunt, because as he put it, the subjects are in the wind. That's FBI lingo for these two men who are armed, apparently with some very heavy weapons, considered extremely dangerous, and Mark Mershon, the FBI agent in charge in Denver, said we assume they are desperate.
What is happening in the Colorado Springs area right now, in order to determine what happened to these two, should they be in another vehicle -- and that's what they believed happen. They're near an interstate, I-25. They're looking for the possibility of a switched vehicle. They're checking cars that may have been stolen. They're checking on possible carjackings, missing persons, anyone who hasn't been heard from. And they're doing, as you just heard Skip Arms say, a very intense neighborhood canvass to turn up any additional information that might help them, including whether or not there may have been friends in the area, because you -- as you know, yesterday afternoon, four of the Texas prison escapees were captured. One other committed suicide. The fugitive Harper committed suicide in a trailer park.
The evidence turned up there: many weapons, 35 of them, including shotguns, assault rifles, handguns, thousands of rounds of ammunition, 10,000 in cash. And receipts were found for body armor that the FBI is just naturally assuming now is in the possession of these two fugitives who are still on the loose.
They were hand-held radios picked up, hair dye, a medical kit. The FBI and state police are considering themselves fortunate in having taken some of this equipment away from the escapees.
They're still asking the police for help. As you may know, "America's Most Wanted" got a tip on yesterday's capture, and it was a 911 call this morning that turned up evidence of the van in that parking lot, which is now being towed away for a further search.
The FBI also is warning police to stay focused of. There was a trooper killed this morning, as you may have heard the FBI man mentioned, when he was in pursuit of what apparently was a look-alike van. The state trooper, Jason Manspeaker, crashed into a parked heavy equipment trailer and died at the scene. The governor of Colorado has ordered all flags flown at half-staff until the funeral.
The U.S. attorney says charges, federal charges will be dropped against the men in custody. They will be returned to Irving, Texas to stand capital murder charges in the death of Officer Aubrey Hawkins.
That's the latest. The search continues. We'll continue to watch the story. "TALKBACK LIVE" now with Bobbie Battista.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com
|Back to the top|