HOUSTON – The wife of the man charged in the shooting death of a 9-year-old girl said her husband opened fire in self-defense, returning shots at the robber who fired at them first.
“We were robbed at gunpoint. We didn’t know if we were going to get out of that situation alive,” said DeYonna Hines, wife of Tony Earls.
Earls, 41, has been charged with aggravated assault, accused of fatally shooting 9-year-old Arlene Alvarez at a Chase Bank ATM drive-thru on Feb. 14.
According to Hines, she was in the driver’s seat while at the ATM when a robber placed a gun to her head and demanded money.
While the suspect was fleeing on foot, Earls is accused of pulling out a gun and shooting.
Houston police said he aimed at a pickup truck, which he thought the suspect had gotten into.
The truck, however, was not involved in the robbery and was occupied by five members of the Alvarez family.
Arlene Alvarez was killed during the shooting.
Hines expressed sorrow over Arlene’s death and offered her condolences to the child’s family while reading a prepared statement during a news conference called by Earls’ attorney.
“The pain of losing a child is something no one should ever experience,” said Hines.
She said Arlene should still be here and shouldn’t have been shot, but she also said her husband is a victim, too.
Earls’ attorney said the couple complied with the robber’s demand for money, but the robber still shot at them. In self-defense, the attorney said Earls shot back.
While Earls has been charged with aggravated assault, those charges could be upgraded to murder, pending a Grand Jury investigation.
According to Earls’ attorney, the robber is the one who should be charged with anything, including murder.
“We are hopeful that HPD will make this a top priority for them to find the person who is the real demon in this situation,” Earls attorney said.
After Earls’ attorney spoke with the media, Rick Ramos, the attorney representing the Alvarez family, held a press conference responding to the self-defense claims.
“Mr. Earls was never under imminent threat, or fear of danger for his life, that of his wife, or that of his property after that robber decided to remove himself from that situation,” said Ramos.
Earls’ defense will have to argue his and his wife’s lives were at risk of being taken when the gunman opened fire. That’s how they would argue he fired in self-defense.
Ramos argues the robber was nowhere near Earls or his wife when he fired. Ramos said the self-defense claim wasn’t truthful, alleging surveillance video supports his claim.
“Mr. Earls is discharging his firearm and his weapon, repeatedly, in the direction of a robber, which he has now lost sight of,” Ramos said.