U.S.A. –-(AmmoLand.com)-— On February 14, 2022, at about 9:45 p.m., in Houston, Texas, Tony Earls and his wife were robbed at an ATM machine. They were depositing money, from the inside of their car. The robber stuck a gun in their faces and took $20 and a check, their car keys and a wallet, according to KHOU.com:
Surveillance video captured the armed robber approaching Tony Earls and his wife as they were depositing money into an ATM. He pointed a gun at the wife’s face and demanded money, their car keys and wallet, investigators said.
Both Earls and his wife complied.
As shown in the surveillance video, the robber then fled the scene. Tony was armed. He left his car to retrieve the car keys the robber had thrown. The robber appears to have turned and fired at Tony, but there is no audio in the surveillance video.
Tony’s attorney, Dunn, said Tony heard a gunshot and fired at a vehicle he thought contained the robber. From Khou.com on 21 February, 2022:
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.
There is an essential adage for people who carry firearms for defense of themselves and others, in the United States:
Every bullet has a lawyer attached.
Shooting profligately without a clear understanding of where your bullets will end up creates significant legal and ethical dangers. Making a mistake of judgment, in a densely populated area puts others at risk. In this case, the mistake cost a nine-year-old girl, Arlene Alvarez, her life.
All parties to the event underwent life-changing stress. A Houston businessman has put up a $25,000 reward (crime stoppers added another $5,000) for the arrest of the robber who sparked the tragic series of events. The Alvarez family will never be the same. Tony Earls’ life will never be the same.
Texas has a system for the prosecution of homicides which can remove much of the judgment from the prosecutor and place it on a grand jury. Grand juries are presented with the evidence, and the grand jury decides if there is enough evidence to charge the individual with the crimes presented to them.
In the Earls case, the grand jury reviewed the evidence and came to the conclusion that Earls did not act recklessly or with evil intent. When the grand jury refuses to indict, the action is called a “no bill.”
The Harris County grand jury “no billed” Tony Earls. From spectrumlocalnews.com:
Tony Earls, 41, had been charged with aggravated assault, serious bodily injury, in Alvarez’s Feb. 14 death. A Harris County grand jury in Houston on Tuesday could have indicted him on this charge or several others, including manslaughter and murder, but declined to do so.
This case shows how complex self-defense and defense of others can be. The lives of several individuals were all put at risk by the actions of a robber, who gained $20. A nine-year-old girl lost her life.
It also shows the advantages of the grand jury system in Texas. While grand juries can be, and often are, manipulated by prosecutors in Texas, in this case, the jury was willing to go against the media narrative calling for the prosecution of Tony Earls. They looked at all the evidence and concluded there was not enough there for prosecution.
Everyone involved is calling for a felony homicide charge against the robber who ran from the scene.
In spite of the $30,000 reward, he remains unidentified at the time of this writing.
The ATM was the scene of previous robberies. In October of 2021, a 49-year-old woman (Mary Jane Gonzalez) was killed near the ATM with a single shot to the head. It is believed the robber obtained $40.
About Dean Weingarten:
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.