Texas’ oldest prisoner was executed nearly 32 years ago for the murder of a Houston police officer during a traffic stop.
Carl van Buntian, 78, was condemned in June 1990 for the fatal shooting of 37-year-old Houston Police Officer James Irby, a nearly 20-year-old member of the force.
The US Supreme Court has rejected a request by Buntian’s lawyers to halt his execution at the state prison in Huntsville.
With his execution, Buntian became the oldest person Texas The death penalty has been imposed since the Supreme Court lifted the ban on the death penalty in 1976.
Tied up at the Texas Death Chamber gurney, Buntian said: “I wanted the Irby family to know one thing: I regret what I did.
“I pray to God that they stop for me to kill my father and Mrs. Irby’s husband.
“I hope to see you in heaven someday and I’ll give you a big hug when you show up.”
Buntian was injected with a lethal dose of the powerful sedative, pentobarbital. He was declared dead 13 minutes later at 6.39 pm.
He was ‘a cancer in my family’s face’
Several dozen motorcyclists, showing support for the shot motorcycle officer, swung their engines loudly as the execution took place, the roar clearly being heard in the death chamber.
Mr Irby’s widow, Maura, 60, said: “I am delighted” after seeing Buntian’s execution.
“I’m sorry someone died. But I didn’t think of him as a person. I just thought of him as a thing, as a cancer in my family’s face.”
Talking about her husband, she said: “I still miss him, 32 years later”, on Thursday night.
Buntian was only on parole for six weeks when he shot Mr Irby.
Buntian, who had an extensive criminal record, was a passenger in the car that was pulled over by Mr. Irby.
Before he was killed, Mr Irby had spoken of retirement and spending more time with his two children, who were another three years old at the time, Maura Irby had previously said.
Until his execution, various state and federal courts had also turned down an appeal by Buntian’s lawyers to stay his death sentence. His clemency request was rejected Tuesday by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.
Buntian was also the first prisoner killed in Texas in 2022. Although Texas has been America’s busiest state with the death penalty, it has been almost seven months since he was hanged.
The oldest prisoner executed in the US in modern times was Walter Moody Jr., who was 83 when he was put to death in Alabama in 2018.