Man killed while trying to protect his wife during attempted carjacking

October 24, 2011 6:05:43 PM PDT
The search is on for suspects after a savage attack on the southwest side of Houston. The killers dragged a couple from their vehicle and then shot the man to death. Police believe the suspects were trying to steal the victims' SUV and that the man died trying to protect his wife.

"Just one shot," said neighbor Sam Gentry. "No more than one shot."

From his balcony on Fairdale at Greenridge, Gentry heard the sound of violence, then the sound of fear.

"A few seconds after that, I heard somebody running through the apartment here screaming," he said.

Gentry's apartment backs up to the parking lot where police say Esvin Sabonluis, 27, was robbed, then shot to death by two gunmen while his wife, Maria Chavez, watched in horror.

"I've got kids, a son and daughter," said neighbor Carlos Velasco. "There are plenty of kids over here, like 30 or 40. This kind of thing is like, wow, totally concerned."

Homicide detectives say at 9:30pm Sunday, the couple decided to take a quick trip to the store. In the parking lot, two suspects armed with handguns approached them and demanded money, their cell phones and the woman's purse. But that wasn't enough. The suspects wanted the couple's 4Runner.

"Pulled the wife out of the car, and then a struggle ensued over the keys to the complainant's car and a shooting occurred," said HPD Homicide Officer Chris Sturdivant.

Sabonluis was rushed to a hospital but died before he got there. The suspects never got his 4Runner. After the shooting they ran away on foot, abandoning the stolen Chevy Avalanche they drove here.

"What we know right now, we believe that the two males arrived at the location in a stolen Chevrolet," Officer Sturdivant explained. "We don't really have a lot of details on that, but we're working on that investigation also."

One eyewitness believes the suspects' original getaway truck broke down and the 4Runner would be their replacement. But it's one they never got, while robbing a woman of an irreplaceable life -- her husband's. Maria didn't want to speak to Eyewitness News, but her sister Carolina Chavez told us Maria is very depressed and scared the killers might return.

"It's so sad to see somebody is dying right in front of you and you can't help them," a witness said.

The violence has some residents thinking twice.

"Part of the reason I'm moving next month," said neighbor Mike Erales. "I mean my car has been vandalized. There is a lot of foot traffic out here, especially at these two apartment complexes."

Neighbor Shere Dore said, "I'm probably going to have to cut the lease short, because I'm a single mother with two children. I can't take that chance."

Police have a vague description of the suspects. They are described only as two black males in their early to mid 20s, about 5 feet 9 inches tall, dark skin and thin builds.

They say there were several witnesses who saw what happened. But they can always use more information. If you can help, you're asked to call Houston police homicide or Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.

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