Innocent 9-year-old dies after being shot while in family’s vehicle; ATM robbery victim charged in her accidental shooting, police say

Identities released of the victim and the shooter

A 9-year-old girl who was struck by a bullet while riding in the back of her family’s truck Monday night has died and the man who accidentally shot her has been charged by police.

HOUSTON – A 9-year-old girl who was struck by a bullet while riding in the back of her family’s truck Monday night has died and the man who accidentally shot her has been charged by police.

The child, Arlene Alvarez and Tony D. Earls, 41, are both victims, with the night of tragedy beginning with a robbery in southeast Houston.

According to Houston police, around 9:45 p.m., Earls was with his wife at the Chase Bank ATM drive-thru in the 2900 block of Woodridge when they were approached by an unknown man and robbed.

While the suspect was fleeing on foot, Earls pulled out a gun and began shooting, also aiming at a pickup truck he thought the suspect had gotten into, police said.

The truck, however, was not involved in the robbery and was occupied by five members of the Alvarez family.

Arlene, who was sitting in the rear passenger seat, was struck.

Arlene was rushed to Memorial Hermann Hospital, where she remained on life support until succumbing to her injuries late Tuesday afternoon.

Her heartbroken father spoke outside the hospital shortly before she died, describing what happened. He said Arlene was wearing headphones when shots rang out. She did not hear any warnings, therefore, had no time to react.

“I knew what had happened. I saw blood. I saw the bullet in the window already. I pulled over and I tried to turn around and by the time I turned around, he [the shooter] was gone. I was going to chase him but my other baby son was still with us. My first instinct was to grab Arlene,” he said.

RELATED: ATM robbery victim faces charges in shooting that left 9-year-old girl in critical condition, police say

After the shooting, the girl’s devastated family flooded social media asking for prayers.

“Crazy how life can change in a blink of an eye… no matter how ready we think we are. We never are..I ended up working late today and could have taken the day off to spend the day with you. My baby is gone,” the father posted.

Images on social media show a loving, hard working family and Arlene was a vibrant child surrounded by love.

“I need the deepest prayers for my Arlene, my baby is in the ICU, mamita mi amor tu no mi Reyna! My baby got shot, we were driving and guy robbing at chase shot us in the truck and he shot my ARLENE! Doctors told us there is no hope! Please don’t inbox me, I NEED PRAYERS! Please, my faith is so strong and please tonight in honor my baby girl light up a candle! A real candle and prayers! PRAYERS ARE SO POWERFUL! Pleaseeeeeee! MY ARLEEEEEEENE! My perfect baby girl’ this year we had so many plans and we are going to make them happen mi amor, mi mejor amiga mamita!” Gwen Alvarez, Arlene’s mother, posted on FB.

Another family member posted a video of Arlene, showing a happy child, full of life and singing.

Police said Earls did not initially know he struck the child until he went home and called to report the robbery. Even though the shooting appears to be accidental, Earls was charged with aggravated assault- serious bodily injury. Those charges could be upgraded due to the child’s death. His bond was set at $100,000.

KPRC 2 legal analyst Brian Wice discussed the law as it relates to a crime victim taking action with a gun.

“You have the right to use deadly force to protect yourself or defend yourself against an aggravated robbery,” Wice said. “You don’t have carte blanche to act recklessly, that is fire blindly into the night at a suspect who no longer presents a threat and has turned on his heel and run.”

The suspect who robbed Earls is still on the run. The robbery happened at the same Chase Bank where a 49-year-old woman was shot and killed in October 2021. Attorney Rick Ramos, who also handled that same shooting, is now representing Arlene’s family.

“If you look at the callouts from the Houston Police Department you will see the crime activity is overwhelming in the last 24 months at the same Chase bank building premises,” said Attorney Ramos said in a press release. “At least two robberies had been reported before Mary Jane was killed in October, one of them took place on August 2, subsequently another one around September 23, 2021 and then in October, Mary Jane Gonzalez was actually killed on the premises.”

RELATED: She was my soulmate’: Husband pleads with public to help identify his wife’s killer

Arlene is the second 9-year-old Houston girl within a week to be hit by gunfire while riding in a vehicle with family. Ashanti Grant is continuing to fight for her life after a road rage shooter took aim at her family.

Mayor Sylvester Turner and HPD Police Chief Troy Finner have vowed to track down the criminals who are harming the innocent children of Houston.

RELATED: Reward increased to $30K to help track down ‘cowardly’ road rage shooter of 9-year-old, mayor announces

Anyone with information on any of the cases is urged to contact the HPD Homicide Division at (713) 308-3600 or Crime Stoppers at (713) 222-TIPS (8477).

About the Author:

Mother of two. Award-winning lover of digital storytelling, sparked by my fascination of being a fashionable gossip like my favorite "Willona Woods" character from "Good Times." On the serious side, president of the Houston Association of Black Journalists and dedicated community servant. Happy to share the news with you each and every day!