HOUSTON — The attorney for the man charged in connection with the shooting death of 9-year-old Arlene Alvarez held a news conference Monday afternoon in which he revealed some new details about what they say happened that night.
Tony Earls, 41, was at the news conference, and although he wanted to speak, his attorney, Brennen Dunn, advised him not to do so. His wife, Deyonna Hinds, issued a statement on Earls' behalf.
Houston police said Alvarez was shot when Earls opened fire on who he thought was the suspect that robbed him at an ATM.
A bullet went through Arlene’s family vehicle, hitting the young girl in the head.
Earls is charged with aggravated assault with serious bodily injury. He was being held on a $100,000 bond, but posted it and was released Thursday night.
Earls' wife speaks
Hinds said she and Earls both were sending condolences to the Alvarez family. She said they have six children, and Earls did what he did that night in order to protect his family. Hinds said she understands the Alvarez family's pursuit of justice and also understands their pain.
"Our nights are sleepless thinking about your pain," Hinds said.
She said they would continue to pray for them.
Earls' attorney speaks
Dunn said the way the night unfolded was an "unfortunate series of events." He said claims by the Alvarez family that the shooting happened during a drug deal gone wrong are completely unfounded.
Dunn gave a recap of what they said happened that night.
He said Earls and Hinds were together when they pulled up to the ATM to get money for food. He said the robber approached their car with a gun drawn and pointed it at Hinds' head while asking for money.
Dunn said Earls and Hinds complied and gave the robber what they had, including the keys to the car. As he was walking away, according to Dunn, the robber threw the keys on the ground.
Dunn said Earls got out of the car to retrieve the keys, and that's when the robber pulled a gun and fired one shot at him. Dunn said his client returned fire, and as he was doing so, a vehicle was driving by slowly. Earls thought the vehicle was part of a group that had just robbed them and got back into his car, according to his attorney.
Dunn said his client got back into the car, and at that point, the vehicle he had noticed began to back up slowly. That's when he said Earls got back out of his car and fired two shots at the vehicle, striking Arlene.
"It's been eating him up inside," Earls' attorney said. "This has him up all night, every night."
Alvarez family attorney
The attorney for the family said they expect the charge against Earsl to be upgraded to murder.
"The amount of the bond, the $100,000, does not correlate with the moral values in our community, which is to protect our children," the family's attorney said. "If you killed a child in this community, and it was by intentional act, and it was reckless in nature, and we can show that on the probable cause hearing, you should have no bond."
The family's attorney said a lawsuit is in the works against the bank where the incident started. They claim the bank and the area are a hotspot for crime.
"In the state of Texas now, when you file a lawsuit, within 30 days of your defendant answering, you better have a piece of evidence, documents, audio recordings to be able to back up the filing of your lawsuit," the attorney said. "When we file it, it's because we mean something."
Chase bank provided KHOU 11 the following statement regarding the incident:
“We’re saddened by this tragic incident and offer our sincere condolences to the Alvarez family. We are working closely with local officials who are handling the investigation."
9-year-old child shot
More details were revealed about Arelene's death when Earls appeared before a judge Thursday morning.
Prosecutors said Earls was riding in the passenger seat of his car along with his wife when they were robbed at the drive-thru ATM. They said the robber took their keys, wallets, and cash before running off.
They say Earls got out of the car and fired four shots at the suspect and then fired two more shots at the Alvarezes truck because he thought the robber was inside it.
One of those two shots hit Arlene, who was in the backseat of the truck watching a movie with headphones on.
“I told everyone to get down and Arlene’s the only one that didn’t get down. She had her headphones in,” Armando Álvarez, her father, said during a press conference.
“We were like, ‘duck down, duck down Arlene.’ And I didn’t scream loud enough. I didn’t know she had her headphones on,” said her mother, Gwen Alvarez.
'This was not self-defense'
Earls and his wife drove home and called 911 to report the robbery. Once he was charged in connection with the shooting, he turned himself in. They said he has been cooperating with the investigation.
Earls' attorney argued his client was acting in self-defense after being robbed at the ATM.
“It was an unfortunate situation for both families. They were robbed at gunpoint,” Sepi Zimmer, with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, said Thursday. “We, to me, it’s vitally important that we do identify who this robber is. He’s the person who put the ... events into action that night.”
Armando Álvarez said last week that he is not buying Earls’ argument that the shooting was self-defense.
“You don’t self-defense when a person is running, already two blocks away from you and you’re shooting at that person and then you decide to shoot at a truck just because he’s passing by at a public street,” the father said on Wednesday. “Now my daughter’s gone. I mean c’mon.”
The Alvarez family’s attorney says they are relieved the judge did not lower Earls’ bond. However, he was still able to post bond and was released on Thursday evening.
"Intentionally, knowingly and recklessly took his pistol, aimed it at the truck and fired shot after shot after shot after shot going inside the actual truck. They had a baby in the truck who could have been killed, the siblings could have been killed, mom could have been killed, he (dad) could have been killed," the attorney said Wednesday.
He said the family wants to see Earls charged with murder. Earl’s charge remains the same for now until the case is referred to a grand jury.