IRVING (CBS 11 News) ―
The convicts came to be known as the "Texas 7" - a group of men who escaped from a state prison in 2000 and killed an Irving police officer.
One member of the infamous group is set to be executed next month and there are several members of the Irving Police Department who say they'll 'be right there'.
It was just before Christmas, December 24, 2000, when Irving police responded to calls involving one of their own. An officer dead - shot 11 times.
After more than seven years Sgt. John Mitchell says he can't forget about his friend and co-worker Officer Aubrey Hawkins.
Lt. Jeff Spivey investigated Hawkins murder and like Mitchell, can't let go of that fateful day. "Christmas Eve will never be the same," he said. "Without a doubt the most difficult investigation I have ever done."
On August 14 "Texas 7" member Michael Rodriguez is scheduled to die by lethal injection.
Rodriguez and six other inmates overpowered workers at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Connally Unit near Kenedy in South Texas on Dec. 13, 2000, took the workers' clothes, then grabbed 16 guns from the prison armory and fled in a stolen truck.
Eleven days later, while Officer Hawkins ate Christmas Eve dinner with his family, the escapees were robbing an Irving Oshman's Sporting Goods Store.
Hawkins was called to respond to 'suspicious activity' at the store. When the 29-year-old officer interrupted the robbery he was shot and killed. It was more than a month later before the escapees, who'd been the subject of a nationwide manhunt, were captured in Colorado.
Before escaping, Rodriguez was serving a life sentence for hiring a hit man to kill his wife, Theresa, 29, so he could collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in life insurance money. Michael Rodriguez' brother, Mark, was also convicted for being a part of the murder-for-hire plot.
Several years ago Rodriguez ordered his appeals dropped and began asking the courts to give him a death date - he now has it.
Next month, Sgt. Mitchell and Lt. Spivey will join some 30 others from the Irving Police Department. The group plans to go to Huntsville, in their uniforms, to witness Rodriguez's execution.
"We are going down just to show support for Aubrey and the family," Sgt. Mitchell explained. "As cliché as it sounds, [it's] the difference between good and evil."
Rodriguez will be the first of the six captured escapees to be executed. Escapee Larry James Harper, who'd been serving a life sentence for a series of rapes, committed suicide in a Colorado mobile home before being captured.
For those closest to Officer Hawkins, like Sgt. Mitchell, a tattered picture of the infamous "Texas 7" is just a reminder, "That there are bad people in the world."
The other members of the "Texas 7" -- alleged ringleader George Rivas, Joseph Garcia, Patrick Murphy Jr., Donald Keith Newbury and Randy Halprin -- all sit on Texas' death row. All of those men are still appealing their sentences.
Ironically, Michael Rodriguez' father, Raul, was released from jail in January. Raul Rodriguez was sentenced to 10 years in prison for 'permitting or facilitating escape'.
With the help of a female friend Raul Rodriguez provided the car that allowed his son and the other six escapees to get to Dallas in 2000. After only five months behind bars, a Karnes County judge granted him an immediate release -- called 'shock probation'.