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Grand jury indicts man on murder charge in shooting death of Texas girl during ATM robbery

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Grand jury indicts man on murder charge in shooting death of Texas girl during ATM robbery
News

News

Grand jury indicts man on murder charge in shooting death of Texas girl during ATM robbery

2024-04-25 07:49 Last Updated At:07:51

HOUSTON (AP) — A man accused of fatally shooting a 9-year-old girl when he was robbed at a Houston ATM in 2022 has been indicted on a murder charge in her death.

Tuesday’s indictment against Tony Earls comes nearly two years after another grand jury declined to indict him in the death of Arlene Alvarez.

Gwen Alvarez, the girl’s mother, said the indictment brought her family some relief, knowing it is the “first step of receiving justice for my daughter.”

“Hopefully we inspire other families to never give up on their loved ones. It’s horrible and it’s a big nightmare what we go through. … We’re living day by day,” a tearful Gwen Alvarez said during a news conference.

Authorities said Wednesday an arrest warrant has been issued for Earls, who has been a fugitive for about a year now on an unrelated assault charge. A $5,000 reward is being offered for information leading to his arrest, said Andy Kahan, director of victim services at Crime Stoppers of Houston.

Earls’ previous attorneys had said their client was not a “monster” but a family man who was devastated by Arlene’s death. They said Earls was not reckless in his actions and was only protecting his family.

Earls and his wife were at an ATM to withdraw money on Feb. 14, 2022, when an unidentified robber pulled a gun on them and fled after taking $20, along with a check and their car keys, according to prosecutors.

Earls’ attorneys said after their client got out of his car, the robber fired and Earls fired back in self-defense. Investigators say Earls fired at a truck thinking the robbery suspect had possibly climbed into it.

But the vehicle was actually carrying Arlene and her family as they went to the ATM to make a deposit before heading to a late dinner at a pizzeria. The girl was shot in the head and later died at a hospital.

Earls was arrested and charged with aggravated assault, serious bodily injury. But a grand jury in July 2022 declined to indict him on that charge or several others, including manslaughter and murder. The man who robbed Earls has never been caught.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said that earlier this year she assigned a special prosecutor, Warren Diepraam, to re-examine the case. Diepraam said an FBI firearms expert was brought in to review evidence.

Diepraam said he couldn't discuss the evidence presented to the grand jury. But his investigation, which was assisted by Houston police and attorneys for the Alvarez family, found that Earls had a clear view of the Alvarez family's truck and there was nothing to indicate it was connected to the robber.

"The conclusion that I reached was that if you’re going to discharge a weapon into a car ... you better make sure that you’re 100% correct because there are no second chances to bring back an innocent life," Diepraam said.

Shooting recklessly into a vehicle or a location voids any claims of self-defense or defense of property under Texas law, he said.

Ogg praised Arlene's family for their patience and efforts in the case.

“They could have been bitter. They could have done nothing. Instead, they directed all their energy toward achieving justice for Arlene. And that’s our goal. ... They will get their day in court," Ogg said.

If convicted, Earls could be sentenced to up to life in prison.

Follow Juan A. Lozano on X: https://twitter.com/juanlozano70

FILE - Wendy Alvarez, mother of Arlene Alvarez, 9, who died after being shot in February of this year, listens during a press conference, Tuesday, July 19, 2022, at Crime Stoppers in Houston. Tony Earls, accused of fatally shooting a 9-year-old girl when he was robbed at a Houston ATM in 2022, has been indicted Tuesday, April 23, 2024, for murder in her death. The indictment comes nearly two years after another grand jury had declined to indict him in the death of Alvarez. (Mark Mulligan/Houston Chronicle via AP)

FILE - Wendy Alvarez, mother of Arlene Alvarez, 9, who died after being shot in February of this year, listens during a press conference, Tuesday, July 19, 2022, at Crime Stoppers in Houston. Tony Earls, accused of fatally shooting a 9-year-old girl when he was robbed at a Houston ATM in 2022, has been indicted Tuesday, April 23, 2024, for murder in her death. The indictment comes nearly two years after another grand jury had declined to indict him in the death of Alvarez. (Mark Mulligan/Houston Chronicle via AP)

FILE - Tony D. Earls is escorted from the Harris County 263rd District Criminal Court Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, in Houston. Earls, who is accused of fatally shooting a 9-year-old girl when he was robbed at a Houston ATM in 2022, has been indicted Tuesday, April 23, 2024, for murder in her death. The indictment comes nearly two years after another grand jury had declined to indict him in the death of Arlene Alvarez. (Melissa Phillip/Houston Chronicle via AP, File)

FILE - Tony D. Earls is escorted from the Harris County 263rd District Criminal Court Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, in Houston. Earls, who is accused of fatally shooting a 9-year-old girl when he was robbed at a Houston ATM in 2022, has been indicted Tuesday, April 23, 2024, for murder in her death. The indictment comes nearly two years after another grand jury had declined to indict him in the death of Arlene Alvarez. (Melissa Phillip/Houston Chronicle via AP, File)

FILE - Arlene Alvarez's parents, Gwen Alvarez and Armando Alvarez are seen during a news conference with their attorney, Rick Ramos, right, Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022 in Houston, Texas. Tony Earls, who is accused of fatally shooting a 9-year-old girl when he was robbed at a Houston ATM in 2022 has been indicted Tuesday, April 23, 2024, for murder in her death. The indictment against Earls comes nearly two years after another grand jury had declined to indict him in the death of Alvarez. (AP Photo/Juan A. Lozano, File)

FILE - Arlene Alvarez's parents, Gwen Alvarez and Armando Alvarez are seen during a news conference with their attorney, Rick Ramos, right, Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022 in Houston, Texas. Tony Earls, who is accused of fatally shooting a 9-year-old girl when he was robbed at a Houston ATM in 2022 has been indicted Tuesday, April 23, 2024, for murder in her death. The indictment against Earls comes nearly two years after another grand jury had declined to indict him in the death of Alvarez. (AP Photo/Juan A. Lozano, File)

Next Article

Hawaii settles climate change lawsuit filed by youth plaintiffs

2024-06-21 13:39 Last Updated At:13:40

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii's governor and lawyers for youth plaintiffs on Thursday announced they settled a lawsuit alleging Hawaii violated the state constitution by operating a transportation system that harmed the climate and infringed upon the children's right to a clean and healthy environment.

The settlement reached in Navahine v. Hawaii Department of Transportation recognizes children’s constitutional rights to a life-sustaining climate, Gov. Josh Green and attorneys at the public interest law firms Our Children's Trust and Earthjustice said in separate statements.

The agreement confirms the department's commitment to plan and implement changes to reach the state’s goal of net-negative emissions by 2045, the governor said.

The parties said the settlement was the first between a state government and youth plaintiffs to address constitutional issues arising from climate change.

The plaintiffs were aged 9 through 18 at the time the lawsuit was filed in June 2022. Their complaint said the department consistently prioritized building highways over other types of transportation.

The lawsuit said one plaintiff, a 14-year-old Native Hawaiian raised in Kaneohe, was from a family that has farmed taro for more than 10 generations. But extreme droughts and heavy rains caused by climate change reduced crop yields and threatened her ability to continue this cultural practice.

Rising sea levels also threatened to put their lands underwater, the complaint said.

In Montana, the state Supreme Court earlier this year declined a request by the state to block the landmark climate ruling that said regulators must consider the effects of greenhouse gas emissions when issuing permits for fossil fuel development while its appeal was pending. Oral arguments on the case before the Montana Supreme Court are set for July 10. That case also was filed by youth plaintiffs.

FILE - Hawaii Gov. Josh Green speaks at a news conference in Honolulu on Friday, Dec. 15, 2023. Hawaii's governor and lawyers for youth plaintiffs on Thursday, June 20, 2024, announced they settled a lawsuit alleging Hawaii violated the state constitution by operating a transportation system that harmed the climate and infringed upon the children's right to a clean and healthy environment..(AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy, File)

FILE - Hawaii Gov. Josh Green speaks at a news conference in Honolulu on Friday, Dec. 15, 2023. Hawaii's governor and lawyers for youth plaintiffs on Thursday, June 20, 2024, announced they settled a lawsuit alleging Hawaii violated the state constitution by operating a transportation system that harmed the climate and infringed upon the children's right to a clean and healthy environment..(AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy, File)

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