Lori Hawkins worked very closely with PoliceOne.com on this interview. We would like to thank her for her help and applaud her for her crusade to ensure officer safety. Her husband Officer Hawkins was a PoliceOne.com member and we join Lori and her family in mourning his death.
"At 8:15pm on December 24th, 2000, I heard a knock on my front door. When I opened the door... there on my front porch, stood the Chief of Police, his wife, a chaplain and 2 uniformed officers. I almost fell to my knees. This was my worst fear coming true. They sat me down on the sofa and told me that my husband, Officer Aubrey Hawkins, had been shot and killed. At first, I didn't think it was possible. I had just eaten dinner with Aubrey at 5:30pm. His son and I met him that night at a restaurant in Irving to have Christmas Eve Dinner with his mother and grandmother. He left quickly at 6:25pm because the "calls" on his radio were getting busy. As we walked to the car he put his hand on my back and said, 'I'll see you in the morning, honey.' This was the last time I saw Aubrey alive. He went directly to the Oshman's store and lost his life." Lori Hawkins addressing the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice.
These are the grueling events that brought 28-year-old Lori Hawkins, widow of Aubrey Hawkins of the Irving Police Department, into the spotlight. She is now one of Texas's most renowned advocates of law enforcement officer safety and pushing for strategic changes in the ill-run Texas prison system. Aubrey was shot and killed by seven escapees from a south Texas prison. The escapees were robbing the Irving Oshman's sporting goods store when Aubrey responded to a suspicious person call at the store. Not knowing the robbery was in progress, Aubrey was ambushed by the suspects as he arrived at the scene. He was killed instantly by multiple gunshot wounds to the head. After several weeks, six of the seven escapees were arrested in Colorado and the seventh committed suicide. All six suspects are being held on Capital Murder charges.
"[The arrests] don't bring Aubrey back," said Lori. "I am relieved in one respect because now he can rest. I want the state of Texas to keep them [there] this time."
In the recent months following Aubrey's senseless murder, Lori has appeared on numerous talk shows and before the Texas legislature, in newspaper articles, and interviewed with local and national media.
With strength and assistance from Aubrey's mother, Jayne, Lori is slowly coming to terms with December's events. Very stoic when authorities began the nation-wide search of the former seven fugitives, they have since harnessed their energy to become outspoken critics of the Texas prison system, which they say bears the brunt of the responsibility for the escape.
Understandably, Lori Hawkins came to tears when she appeared in front of the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice while discussing the death of her husband. Lori says that she holds the Texas Department of Criminal Justice responsible for the December 13, 2000 escape of the "Texas Seven" and their subsequent murder of her husband. Jayne Hawkins presented several recommendations to the Committee on Criminal Justice on how to improve the TDCJ. She accused the members of the Criminal Justice Committee of complacency a number of times. Senator Ken Armbrister, the chair of the committee, consented and shares her goal of ensuring that any mistakes that led to the escape are corrected.
Lori believes the prison system in Texas needs to increase staffing, training, and correctional officer pay. Texas has the second largest prison system in the nation, yet the guards there are among the most poorly compensated in the country.
The Texas Tort Claims Act limits the amount Lori and Aubrey's family can sue the state of Texas to $500,000. The Hawkins family is accusing Texas of "Negligent Homicide" in their pending lawsuit against them. Lori intends to donate half of any money their family receives to charities with which Aubrey was actively associated prior to his death. The other half will go to a trust fund for the care of Aubrey's 9-year-old son, Andrew. "I won't keep a dime. I don't want their money! I am suing to make a point and so they will make the needed changes in our prison system. The money won't replace Aubrey," Lori told PoliceOne.
Lori has also become a staunch supporter of officer safety in Texas and she hopes to fulfill one of Aubrey's dreams. Before he was murdered he had often toyed with the idea of constructing a database, on a local and national level, that what include the names of people who have made direct or indirect threats on members of law enforcement.
"When an officer makes a stop he can pull up the name of the suspect involved from the license plate, etc and see that this person may be a threat," said Lori of Aubrey's push for this database. "Aubrey was the safest cop I knew," and he wanted this for his fellow officers. The Aubrey Hawkins Act was recently passed through the Texas House of Representatives and is pending in the Senate.
Growing up in a law enforcement family, Lori has found much comfort from the Irving Police Department and Aubrey's friends and co-workers. "They have taken their own time to comfort me and be there for me," says Lori. "They have truly become my family now."
Like Aubrey, Lori is pro-death penalty and hopes to see all 6 of the remaining suspects sentenced to death for murdering Aubrey. She plans on being present at every hearing, every trial, and every court date involving the remaining "Texas Seven". "I want them to look at me every time they walk in that court room! I want them to know what they have done to Aubrey's family and his little boy!"
When all six have come to justice, Lori said she will continue to champion for victims of violent crimes so that she can support families during what she calls the most difficult time of her life.
For now Lori is committed to overseeing the scholarship fund set up in Aubrey's name. For more information on Lori, Aubrey and the scholarship fund please check out: http://www.awh830.com/
If you are interested in Aubrey's letter to the CLEAT Digest and the bill that was recently passed, Please Click Here.