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Four—“Fred, what the hell are you doing?”

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Chapter Four

“Fred, what the hell are you doing?”

—Father O’Brien, hostage

After ordering all but the most essential civilian employees out of the Walls and clearing the yards and inside compound of all inmates by returning them immediately to their cells, Warden Husbands responded to one of Fred Carrasco’s demands to “get hold of Father O’Brien, and have him come up here so we can talk to him and negotiate through him.”1

Husbands, with O’Brien already at his side, told

Carrasco the priest was on his way. However, Carrasco had conditions. The Catholic clergyman was to remove his religious collar and have his hands cuffed in front of him. Turning to the Father while Carrasco waited, the warden explained the conditions. They were no problem for O’Brien.

“Now you don’t have to go up there,” the warden advised the priest as he briefly reiterated the Texas

Department of Corrections policy regarding hostagetaking—a policy that all prison workers, as part of their job orientation, have to review and sign. 2

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Two—“Let’s get the hell out of here.”

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Chapter Two

“Let’s get the hell out of here.”

—Steve Roach, inmate

The Texas Legislature created the Windham School

District in the Texas Department of Corrections in

1968. It was subject to the certification requirements and regulations of the Texas Education Agency and the State Board of Education. Its purpose was to provide educational and vocational opportunities for prison inmates that would help them when and if they returned to the general population. Attendance at once-a-week, six-hour classes was required for inmates having less than a fifth-grade education and it was voluntary for others. At the Walls Unit, the

Windham group of about fifteen teachers and librarians was housed on the 11,250 square-foot top floor of a rectangular, three-story building made of reinforced concrete faced with masonry bricks with steel roof trusses. It was, unintentionally, a fortress.

The 167-by-67 foot area was remodeled in 1972 from an auditorium into the educational facility. About fifty percent of the room’s interior was classroom, thirty percent was library, and the remaining twenty percent—which divided the two larger rooms—was

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Eleven—“We have more time.”

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Chapter Eleven

“We have more time.”

—TDC Director, Jim Estelle, Jr.

That meal must have totally satiated Fred Carrasco and induced some sort of temporary amnesia.

Amazingly and inexplicably, there was neither further conversation nor demands for weapons nor threats of killing hostages for the rest of Thursday night. Carrasco did not call Estelle nor did he call

Montemayor. And there was no way those in the

Think Tank wanted to renew the day’s previous discussion. Though glad to still be alive, the hostages were, to say the least, confused. The TDC director could not explain it to the media. He would only say,

“We have more time.” Prison spokesman Ron Taylor said there would be no more moves at all until 10:00 a.m. the next day, Friday. “We asked the inmates if they were agreeable to break off negotiations. They were, so we did,” Taylor said. He called the suspension of negotiations “a good sign” and added it had allowed prison officials to “buy time.”1 And time was the commodity Estelle and the Texas

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Twenty-two—“I demand that an armored truck be waiting.”

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Chapter Twenty-two

August 1, 1974 • Day Nine

“I demand that an armored truck be waiting.”

—Fred Carrasco, hostage-taker

In eight days, newly-installed President Gerald R.

Ford would say, “The long nightmare is over.” That may have been true for many of the people of the

United States of America following the resignation of

President Richard M. Nixon. But for the ten civilian hostages in the library at the Walls Unit of the State

Prison at Huntsville, Texas, their long nightmare was far from over.

Construction of the rickety shield—that would supposedly protect them on their way out of the library, down the winding ramp, and to the armored truck that would transport them and their three captors to a destination that could only be guessed at—proceeded unabated. The rhythm grew even more frenetic as the participants, numbed by a lack of sleep from their all-night endeavors and goaded by their self-imposed prospects of freedom, abandoned their fears and hammered away at the Trojan Taco.

Carrasco, obviously pleased with the results of the previous day’s negotiation methodology, tried the ploy once more. He directed Novella Pollard to have

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Fourteen—“We will kill as many people as possible.”

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Chapter Fourteen

“We will kill as many people as possible.”

—Fred Carrasco, hostage-taker

Federico Gomez Carrasco’s moods were hard for those in the Command Post to predict. On several occasions,

TDC Director Estelle made, or authorized lawyer

Ruben Montemayor to make, offers to Carrasco that quickly backfired. For instance, late Friday after about thirty minutes of negotiations directly between Estelle and Carrasco, an offer of transportation was made.

Estelle assumed, one way or the other, the three hostiles would need a getaway vehicle. According to

Warden Husbands, “We told Carrasco there would be a car inside the Walls waiting for his instructions.

We told him that the car would be pulled up to the ramp in front of the building, filled with gas with the motor either running or off, whatever he wished.”1

Although authorities had had expected it since day one of the siege, Carrasco had not asked for transportation in exchange for the hostages.

Estelle did not tell the hostage-takers they were being allowed to go free. They were only offered transportation. Estelle remembered, “Had they taken it up, we’d have arranged their safe conduct—but only

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