Man who killed Dallas officer to be executed

No late appeals were in the courts for a Texas death row inmate who is facing execution for killing a Dallas police officer.

Licho Escamilla, 33, is scheduled for lethal injection Wednesday evening for the November 2001 death of Christopher Kevin James outside a Dallas club. James was among four uniformed officers working off-duty security when a brawl involving Escamilla broke out.

Escamilla, who was already wanted in Dallas for the fatal shooting of a neighbor weeks earlier, pulled out a gun and opened fire on police as they tried to end the fight.

The bullets from Escamilla's 9 mm semi-automatic handgun twice struck James, 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 gunfire survived.

A wounded Escamilla was arrested as he tried to carjack a truck.

Escamilla is slated to become the 24th convicted killer put to death this year in the United States -- with Texas accounting for half of the executions.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review his case last week. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles decided against a reprieve and clemency Monday.

"He's a really bad guy," one of the trial prosecutors, Fred Burns, said Tuesday. "I think what happened is the guy already committed one murder and figures that's what (officers) were coming after him for."

A warrant had been issued for Escamilla, then 19, in the shooting death of a West Dallas neighbor nearly three weeks before James' death. 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.

Escamilla was sentenced to death in October 2002.

At his trial in Dallas, Escamilla grabbed a water pitcher off the defense table and threw it at the jury as the judge was reading his death sentence.

"He missed," Wayne Huff, Escamilla's lead trial lawyer, recalled Tuesday.  "It was a real scene.

"He was cooperative with us, pretty much. We were worried about outbursts during the trial but he managed to keep that under control until the very end."

Escamilla also started kicking and hitting people and hid under the table until he was subdued by deputies who triggered an electronic stun belt he was wearing.

"Licho is a poster child for the death penalty," Burns said. "That's pretty much it."

Testimony showed 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.

Court records showed that Escamilla and some of his older brothers were involved in gang activity 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.