Texas to execute man who fatally shot game warden in gun fight

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[January 27, 2016]  By Jon Herskovitz
 AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Texas plans to execute on Wednesday a man who led game wardens on a high-speed chase in 2007 before getting into a gun battle with them, where he fatally shot one of the officers.

James Freeman is scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection at the state's death chamber in Huntsville at 6 p.m. local time (0000 GMT).

If the execution goes ahead, it will be the second in Texas this year and the 533rd in the state since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. In that time, 37 percent of all U.S. execution have taken place in Texas.

Freeman was convicted of killing Game Warden Justin Hurst, who turned 34 on the day he was killed in Wharton County, about 130 miles (210 km) southeast of Austin.

On the night of the incident, Freeman drank heavily, got into his pickup truck and shot at animals from the roadside, where he killed a possum, prosecutors said.

After hearing shots, game wardens approached the vehicle and Freeman drove off, leading officers on a 90-minute high-speed chase, they said.

When the vehicle's tires were flattened by road spikes, Freeman got out of his pickup truck and fired 11 shots from his pistol at the wardens. He then retrieved an AK-47, used his pickup truck for cover and fired about 30 more rounds at the game officers, who were firing back, they said.

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Freeman was shot four times and survived. Hurst was airlifted to a hospital in Houston and pronounced dead from the gunshot wounds he suffered.

The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this month declined to review Freeman's case.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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