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Search Continues For Armed Robber Who Set Off Events Leading To Fatal Shooting Of 9-Year-Old Girl

Houston, TX – Houston police are searching for the robbery suspect connected with the series of events that ended in the shooting death of nine-year-old Arlene Alvarez earlier this month.

The department released surveillance footage on Feb. 18 showing the alleged robber scaling an iron fence as he fled from the area of the Chase bank ATM drive-thru located at 2900 Woodridge Drive on Feb. 14.

He is described as a dark-skinned black male with “full eyelashes” and a “thick build,” the Houston Police Department (HPD) said in the video release.

Police urged anyone with information about the suspect or his whereabouts to contact the agency’s Homicide Division or Crime Stoppers.

The manhunt for the unidentified suspect was launched after he allegedly robbed 41-year-old Tony Earls and Earls’ wife at gunpoint at the Chase bank ATM at approximately 9:45 p.m. on Feb. 14, the HPD said in a press release at the time.

Earls got out of his vehicle and opened fire on the suspect as he ran off on foot, according to police.

Earls 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 the following day.

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.”

The unidentified robbery suspect fled the scene and has not been apprehended, according to the HPD.

Earls was arrested on a charge of aggravated assault in connection with Alvarez’s death and has since been released on $100,000 bond, KHOU reported.

His attorney, Brennen Dunn, told reporters on Monday that the suspect had pointed a gun at his client’s head and ordered him to hand over his valuables and car keys.

After Earls and his wife complied with the suspect’s orders, the gunman began to walk away, Dunn said.

He allegedly threw Earls’ keys on the ground, at which point Earls got out of the vehicle to retrieve them, KHOU reported.

Dunn said that’s when the gunman a single round at him.

As Earls returned fire, he spotted a vehicle driving by slowly and believed it was possibly involved in the attack, Dunn told KHOU.

He got back into his car as the slow-moving vehicle suddenly began backing up, according to the attorney.

That’s when Earls jumped back out of his car and fired two rounds, hitting the vehicle and the little girl sitting inside, KHOU reported.

Dunn said his client never intended to shoot the little girl.

“It’s been eating him up inside,” he told KHOU. “This has him up all night, every night.”

Harris County Assistant District Attorney Sepi Zimmer said the incident was “an unfortunate situation for both families,” KHOU reported.

Zimmer noted that Earls and his wife were robbed at gunpoint prior to Earls firing at the vehicle Arlene Alvarez was riding in.

“It’s vitally important that we do identify who this robber is,” Zimmer told KHOU. “He’s the person who put the … events into action that night.”

The Alvarez family said they want Earls to be charged with murder.

They said they are planning to sue the bank where the robbery occurred and alleged it has been a frequent hotspot for other criminal activity.

The HPD said it is looking into the possibility that the gunman who robbed Earls could have been the same suspect who murdered a woman at the same location in October of last year, KPRC reported.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

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Written by Holly Matkin

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