Licho Escamilla, a convicted cop killer who gunned down an off-duty officer on Thanksgiving weekend 2001, is scheduled to die tonight by lethal injection on death row in Texas. He was convicted of shooting dead police officer Christopher Kevin James who was working a second job outside a nightclub in Dallas on November 25, 2001, according to the Associated Press.
Escamilla, who was 19 at the time, pulled out a semi-automatic handgun and opened fire as officer James tried to break up a fight outside the club. Last week, the US Supreme Court refused to review Licho’s case and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles decided against commuting the sentence and granting a reprieve.
Officials said that no appeal has been lodged against the decision. At the time of Officer James’ murder, the convicted cop killer was wanted for the fatal shooting of his neighbor in a Dallas suburb.
Licho Escamilla’s cop killing trial heard that he hit Officer James with two rounds, knocking him to the ground. He then calmly walked up to the prone officer and fired three more bullets into the back of his head.
Trial prosecutor Fred Burns said: “He’s a really bad guy. I think what happened is the guy already committed one murder and figures that’s what (officers) were coming after him for.”
Three of James’ fellow off-duty colleagues, also working security outside the club opened fire, wounding Licho, who tried to escape by carjacking a truck. Later this evening, Escamilla is set to become the 24th person executed in the United States this year, with Texas accounting for half of that number.
A warrant had been issued for Escamilla in the shooting death of a West Dallas neighbor nearly three weeks before James’ death on Nov. 25, 2001. Licho’s trial attorneys told jurors he was responsible for James’ slaying but argued it didn’t merit a death sentence because James was not officially on duty, meaning the crime didn’t qualify as a capital murder.
As the judge in October 2002 read his death sentence, he threw a pitcher of water at the jury, started kicking and hitting people and hid under the defense table until he was subdued by sheriff’s deputies.
Wayne Huff, his lead trial lawyer said: “It was a real scene. I don’t think there was any real doubt he was going to be found guilty.”
Dallas officers awaiting the execution of Licho Escamilla. They are holding a pic of slain officer Kevin James. pic.twitter.com/ZXq2NaMouu
— Tanya Eiserer (@tanyaeiserer) October 14, 2021
Testimony showed Licho Escamilla bragged to emergency medical technicians who were treating his wounds that he had killed an officer and injured another and that he’d be out of jail in 48 hours. He also admitted to the slaying during a television interview from jail.
James, 34, had earned dozens of commendations during his nearly seven years on the Dallas police force after graduating at the top of his cadet class. He was working the off-duty security job to earn extra money so he and his new wife could buy a house.
A second officer wounded in the gunfire survived.
According to court documents, Licho Escamilla and some older brothers were involved in gang activities and sold and used drugs from an early age. He was involved in two high-speed police chases and an assault on an assistant principal in school, where he dropped out after the eighth grade.
Licho Escamilla was pronounced dead at 6:31 p.m., 18 minutes after the injection was administered. In his last breaths, he turned to the murdered officer’s daughter and said, “God bless your heart.”