Suspect in fatal shooting of taco truck owner committed similar crime before

Erique Ayala, left and Anthony Conway, right.
Erique Ayala, left and Anthony Conway, right. (KPRC2)

HOUSTON – The man wanted for the slaying of taco stand owner Enrique Ramirez Ayala was arrested last year for a similar crime but only served six months in jail following a plea agreement that the Houston Police Officers’ Union calls a “sweetheart deal."

Ramirez Ayala was robbed and killed June 6 as he walked to his truck from a convenience store in the 13500 block of South Post Oak Road. 

Police were able to identify his alleged killer -- Anthony Conway, 21 -- through store security video. Conway, accompanied by three accomplices, allegedly shot Ramirez Ayala with a long gun. All four suspects remain at large. 

Before he became the prime suspect in the robbery/murder, Conway was convicted in a similar case last year. 

In April 2018, police said Conway shot a man twice in the face while robbing him. Conway was originally charged with aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon, but prosecutors agreed to a plea deal that greatly reduced the charge and potential sentence. 

The felony charge of aggravated robbery he had been facing was reduced to illegal possession of a gun, a class A misdemeanor. Conway served six months in jail instead of years in prison.

Ramirez Ayala’s family reacted angrily when they learned about it Tuesday.

“There is no good reason. There's absolutely no good reason. If he did it once what made them think he wasn’t going to do it again, “Elizabeth Martinez, Ramirez Ayala’s goddaughter, said. “They didn't do their job. There’s no way morally they should have fought for him. If it was their family how would they have felt? 

On Tuesday, The Houston Police Officers' Union called the reduced charge and sentence a sweetheart deal.

“Why is this man who is wanted in the murder of Ayala Ramirez, why is he on the streets? Why did he not have the book thrown at him the first time our officers called him? Because if he was in jail, maybe he wouldn’t be free to rob someone else and kill them,” said Joe Gamaldi, president of the union.

The District Attorney’s Office declined Channel 2 News' request for an interview today, instead of issuing a written statement:

"Our thoughts are with the family of Enrique Ramirez Ayala. Anthony Conway is charged with capital murder and if convicted will never again set foot in this community or any community. He faces life in prison or the death penalty. There is private and personal information pertaining to Conway’s last arrest, which we are prohibited from discussing publicly, which factored into the trial prosecutor’s decision to reach an agreement for Conway to plead guilty to unlawfully carrying a weapon."

Conway is charged with capital murder in the slaying of Ramirez Ayala . He could face the death penalty once he’s caught. 

But for now, he remains at large. Houston police are asking anyone with information that could lead them to him to call Houston Crime Stoppers.