HUNTSVILLE, Texas – Convicted killer Gayland Bradford was executed Wednesday for the $7 robbery-slaying of a Dallas grocery store security guard almost 23 years ago.
In a final statement, Bradford, 42, thanked friends for being with him "through thick and thin."
"I am at peace," he said. "We have no worries, just as I have no more worries. To the victim's family, may you be at peace also."
As the lethal drugs took effect, he gasped a couple of times, then began snoring, each breath progressively fainter. Nine minutes later, at 6:25 p.m., he was pronounced dead.
Bradford already was on parole for a robbery conviction when he was arrested for gunning down 29-year-old Brian Williams four days after Christmas in 1988. The shooting came on Williams' second day on the job at the market a few miles south of downtown Dallas.
Williams' mother and brother were among the people in the death chamber, watching through a window just a few feet from Bradford.
"We have no anger towards Mr. Bradford and forgive him of his crime against our family," Williams' brother, Gregory, said in a statement released following the punishment. "We now turn our thoughts and prayers to Mr. Bradford's family and friends and pray that God will give them the strength, comfort and understanding as they now grieve the loss of their loved one."
The U.S. Supreme Court last week refused to reconsider an appeal they rejected earlier, clearing the way for Bradford to become the fourth Texas prisoner executed this year. Three more lethal injections are set for this month in the nation's busiest capital punishment state.
Bradford's attorney had argued unsuccessfully that lawyers handling early stages of the appeal were inexperienced and underqualified.
"That was my last hope, that the Supreme Court would look at this," said Mick Mickelson, Bradford's current lawyer.
The shooting and robbery was recorded on a security camera and attorneys said the tape was key to Bradford's conviction and death sentence.
In a confession to police, Bradford said the shooting was in self-defense, that when he walked into the store he tapped Williams on the shoulder, the security guard jumped and frightened Bradford
"The security guard was trying to get his gun," he said in the written confession. "I thought the security guard was going to shoot me."
The video, however, didn't back up Bradford's story.
"It was just about the most chilling video you'd ever see," said Dan Hagood, a former Dallas County district attorney who prosecuted the case. "Bradford walked in, turned right, walked up behind the victim and shot him, just shot him.
"No fight, no struggle, no 'put your hands up.' Just shot him and the victim fell to the floor."
Williams then threw his hands up and Bradford shot him again several times, took his victim's cap, pistol and wallet containing the $7.
Bradford was one of two men involved in the robbery. His partner, Vandron Seymore, received 42 years in prison for aggravated robbery. He was paroled in 2002.
Bradford had two trials. His first conviction in 1990 was thrown out by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which found the trial judge made an error regarding psychiatric testimony. Bradford was retried in 1995, convicted and again condemned.
Evidence showed he told a psychologist he'd began drinking alcohol in the seventh grade and had four or five beers a day. He dropped out of school after the eighth grade. Testimony showed he had bragged about the killing to a girlfriend.
Two weeks before his 18th birthday in 1986, Bradford went to prison with a four-year sentence for robbery. He was paroled in April 1988 although records showed he was responsible for inciting a riot while incarcerated and also was involved in a second melee. The fatal shooting occurred eight months after his parole.
When he was arrested five days after the shooting, police found marijuana and guns in his room. He also was carrying two plastic bags of crack cocaine when he was booked.
At least 10 other Texas inmates have execution dates through September. Set to die next is John Balentine, facing lethal injection June 15 for the fatal shootings of three teenagers in Amarillo in 1998.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice execution schedule. http://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/stat/scheduledexecutions.htm