A Texas man already being sought for a neighbor's slaying when he killed a Dallas police officer outside a club was executed Wednesday.
Licho Escamilla was put to death for the November 2001 death of Christopher Kevin James who was trying to break up a brawl involving Escamilla. The 33-year-old prisoner was pronounced dead at 6:31 p.m. CDT — 18 minutes after the lethal injection began.
Escamilla became the 24th convicted killer executed this year in the United States. Texas has accounted for 12 of the executions.
Before dying, Escamilla looked at the slain officer's daughter, who was seated a few feet away watching through a window, and told her: "God bless your heart."
He turned to his relatives watching through another window and said he loved them and everyone who supported him.
"Pope Francis, God's children has asked the state of Texas to switch my death sentence to life in prison," he said. "But the state of Texas has refused to listen to God's children.
"They will have to take that up with God," he added.
He took two breaths as the sedative pentobarbital took effect, then became still. His sister cried and screamed for God not to take him.
The rumbling of motorcycles could be heard outside the prison where bikers supporting the punishment had gathered.
The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review his case last week and no additional appeals were filed as his execution neared. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles on Monday decided against a reprieve and clemency.
James and three other uniformed officers were working off-duty when the brawl started. Escamilla pulled out a gun and opened fire on the officers as they tried to end the fight.
The bullets from his 9 mm semi-automatic handgun struck James twice, knocking him to the ground. Escamilla then calmly walked up to the officer and fired three more shots into the back of his head before running and exchanging shots with other officers, witnesses said. A second officer wounded in the shootout survived.
A wounded Escamilla was arrested as he tried to carjack a truck.
About a half-dozen Dallas police officers stood at attention and saluted as relatives of the slain officer entered the prison in Huntsville ahead of the execution.
"It's taken longer than we would have liked," Frederick Frazier, first vice president of the Dallas Police Association, said.
He said he and others showed up to support James and make sure he's remembered for the work he did. While officers know they're risking their lives every day, James' death has been difficult for them because of how it happened, Frazier added.
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.
Escamilla was 19 at the time of the officer's killing and a warrant had been issued for him in the shooting death of a West Dallas neighbor nearly three weeks earlier.
Escamilla's trial attorneys told jurors he was responsible for James' slaying but argued it didn't merit a death sentence because James wasn't officially on duty, meaning the crime didn't qualify as a capital murder.