Revealed in court: 9-year-old accidentally shot, killed by robbery victim lost life over $20, prosecutors say

Suspect released from jail on $100,000 bond

Tony Earls appeared in a Harris County courthouse, where it was also revealed that the suspect who robbed him only got away with $20.

HOUSTON – The man charged in the shooting death of an innocent 9-year-old girl who was riding in a truck with her family has bonded out of jail Thursday evening, the Harris County Sherriff’s Office confirmed.

His release comes hours after a judge denied lowering his bond of $100,000 during a court appearance in a Harris County courthouse, where it was also revealed that the suspect who robbed him only got away with $20.

The Houston case has captured the attention of people across the country, with questions arising about victims fighting back, innocent lives being lost, and the laws surrounding when a crime victim can fire his or her weapon.

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

Arlene Alvarez was shot while riding in a vehicle with her family. (KPRC)

According to Houston police, around 9:45 p.m. Monday, Tony 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 who were headed to Spanky’s restaurant on Telephone Road.

Arlene, who was sitting in the rear passenger seat, was shot in the head.

Her father, Armando Alvarez, said he told his entire family who were in the vehicle at the time of the shooting to duck down, but Arlena had on headphones and could not hear him.

Arlene was rushed to Memorial Hermann Hospital as Earls went home. When he called the police to report his robbery, he learned of the child being hit.

He returned to the scene, surrendered his gun, and was taken into custody.

Arlene, surrounded by love and family members, was removed from life support the following day and died.

Her family held a press conference Wednesday morning, with the family’s attorney calling for justice and accountability.

Family of Arlene Alvarez demands justice

RELATED: This was not self-defense’: Arlene Alvarez’s family demands justice for 9-year-old killed after robbery, accidental shooting at Chase Bank ATM

A balloon release was held in her honor that evening.

Earls was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and his bond was set at $100,000. During his court appearance Thursday, his attorney argued that the bond should be reduced because, they felt, Earls was just trying to protect himself and his wife.

“It was unfortunate for both families, but there is one family that lost a child, it was senseless it was tragic, quite frankly it’s happening way too much and I think Houston has always been good at taking care of each other whether its hurricanes or floods or freezes and our community needs to stop this,” said Sepi Zimmer, prosecutor.

HPD officials and prosecutors confirmed surveillance of Earls being robbed at gunpoint, but have not yet released the footage. HPD said it is investigating the possibility that the person who robbed Earls is the same person who killed Mary Jane Gonzalez in October at the same bank branch.

Rick Ramos, attorney for the Alvarez family, said they are pleased with the judge’s decision.

Charges could also be upgraded.

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 owners of Spanky’s restaurant heard about what happened to Arlene and wanted to help. On Monday, the restaurant is donating 30% of all dine-in, delivery and to-go sales to the family.


About the Authors:

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!