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Convicted Killer Says He’s Innocent and Won’t Turn Himself In

January 15, 1986

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A man who escaped from jail after being convicted in a shooting that touched off a highly publicized battle between his family and a street gang says he’s not giving up and hopes to prove his innocence.

″I have no intention of turning myself in,″ James Hawkins Jr. said in a telephone interview broadcast Tuesday on television station KNBC. ″I love my freedom and I love life.

″I love my family,″ Hawkins said. ″I hope they understand my predicament and realize that I have my own life to live. What I am doing is for the best and am quite sure that with time I can prove my innocence.″

Hawkins and two other county jail inmates escaped from a courthouse waiting room the night before Thanksgiving. Hawkins, convicted in the 1983 slaying of 19-year-old gang member Anttwon Thomas, was facing trial on an unrelated double murder charge when he escaped.

Thomas’ killing brought a week of retaliation against the Hawkins family that attracted national attention after local authorities said they could not protect the family against overwhelming odds in its feud with the gang.

Hawkins’ father, owner of a grocery, initially was hailed as an urban hero, but later a surprise witness came forward and his son was charged with killing Thomas deliberately, instead of in self-defense.

After the escape, Sheriff Sherman Block provided protection for Deputy District Attorney Harvey Giss, who had won the voluntary manslaughter conviction against the younger Hawkins in the Thomas slaying.

Hawkins complained in Tuesday’s interview that he was imprisoned for 16 months on ″charges that were truly fabricated by an ambitious district attorney.″

However, he said, ″I have no intention of harming anyone, no innocent person, no good person.″

After hearing the interview, Hawkins’ father, James Sr., appealed again for his son to turn himself in. But Hawkins’ brother Gene said he was glad his brother remained free.

″He is at a point where he really feels he can prove his justification under the law, prove his innocence ... and he really feels good about that.″

The elder Hawkins disagreed. ″I still am going to tell him to please give himself up,″ he said. ″Someone out there will kill him.″

The fugitive said he stayed in the east San Gabriel Valley community of Glendora, about 25 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, after his escape. But he said he has since left Southern California.

One of the inmates who escaped with him was recaptured quickly, but the other remains at large.

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