Houston, TX – A robbery victim fatally shot a nine-year-old girl while attempting to stop the suspect who robbed him at gunpoint at an ATM Monday night, according to police.
The incident began at a Chase bank ATM drive-thru located at 2900 Woodridge Drive at approximately 9:45 p.m. on Feb. 14, the Houston Police Department (HPD) said in a press release the following day.
Tony Earls, 41, was at the ATM with his wife when a male suspect robbed them at gunpoint, the Associated Press reported.
Earls got out of his vehicle and opened fire on the suspect as he ran off on foot, according to police.
Earks then began shooting at a pickup truck he believed the suspect had gotten into, police said.
The suspect wasn’t in the vehicle, but a family of five with no connection to the robbery was.
One of the rounds Earls fired ultimately struck a nine-year-old girl who was riding in the back seat, according to the HPD.
Her family later identified her as Arlene Alvarez, the Associated Press reported.
“I could hear her talking real low to her dad and her dad was talking to her trying to comfort her,” said Joe Maldonado, who drove up to the scene shortly after the shooting.
“The mom was really, she was hysterical, she was basically just running around in circles around the dad and the daughter just looking up at the sky. It was pretty scary to see that,” Maldonado told KHOU.
The critically wounded fourth-grader was rushed to Memorial Hermann Hospital, where she was placed on life support, KPRC reported.
She succumbed to her injuries on Tuesday.
Her father, Armando Alvarez, said the bullet hit her near her temple and remained lodged towards the back of her head, according to the Associated Press.
“She passed away in my arms,” he said. “I don’t wish this on nobody. If you’ve got kids, hold them tight.”
Armando Alvarez says his daughter Arlene, 9, was the little girl shot last night near a SE Houston bank. A man who was robbed fired toward the robber & a bullet struck Arlene in the head as the family’s SUV was driving by. Arlene is on life support. Story on @KPRC2 at 4 & 5. pic.twitter.com/38Ii0G9tUR
— Taisha Walker (@KPRC2Taisha) February 15, 2022
The unidentified robbery suspect fled the scene and has not been apprehended, according to the HPD.
Earls has been arrested on a charge of aggravated assault in connection with Alvarez’s death.
His bond was set at $100,000 and is scheduled to appear in court Thursday morning.
Harris County District Attorney’s Office spokesperson Dane Schiller said the charges against Earls may be upgraded, the Associated Press reported.
“Our hearts go out to the Alvarez family,” Schiller said. “We are going to review all the evidence, apply the law and determine what charges are appropriate.”
According to police, Earls said he did not have any idea he shot Alvarez until after he went home and called police to report the robbery, KPRC reported.
Family members identified the 9-yr-old shot last night as Arlene Lynette Alvarez. She was shot while in her family’s truck. @DavidGonzKHOU will have the latest at noon. And I’ll continue to follow this story this afternoon on @KHOU These are photos of her brothers & parents. pic.twitter.com/3Xgq3Xex40
— Anayeli Ruiz KHOU (@AnayeliNews) February 15, 2022
Alvarez’s family is demanding justice and said there was no reason for Earls to shoot at a fleeing suspect, according to KHOU.
“Now he wants to say it’s self-defense. It’s not self-defense,” Armando Alvarez told the news outlet. “You don’t self-defense when a person is running already two blocks away from you and you’re shooting at that person and then you decide to shoot at a truck just because he’s passing by at a public street. Now my daughter’s gone. I mean, c’mon.”