Newly-released surveillance video shows frightening ATM robbery which led to deadly shooting of innocent 9-year-old girl

Full video can be seen here:

HOUSTON – Houston police have released surveillance video showing the frightening moments of an ATM robbery that led to the deadly shooting of Arlene Alvarez, an innocent 9-year-old girl. The robbery victim, 41-year-old Tony Earls, has been charged for allegedly firing the shot that ended the little girl’s life.

Events of that evening have caused debate over who is responsible for Arlene’s death. Was it the robber, whose actions led to the deadly shooting, or the robbery victim, who some believe should have never chased after him?

Surveillance video released Tuesday may help paint more of a picture of what happened on the evening of Feb. 14.

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. The family was heading to Spanky’s restaurant on Telephone Road to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

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

The video released by the Houston Police Department outlines part of the sequence of events.

The video shows the suspect approaching the vehicle and pointing a gun at Earls and his wife. The wife was behind the wheel.

The video shows the suspect acting in an aggressive manner, robbing the couple, then fleeing the scene.

It then shows the suspect running off, with Earls exiting the passenger side and chasing after him.

That is when you see the suspect turn and extend his arm, appearing to point a gun in the direction of Earls. Then there is a flash of light, appearing to come from Earls’ gun. During these tense moments, you see vehicles, including a dark-colored truck, passing by the men.

At some point, Earls stopped chasing the robber, who continues running past a fence along a sidewalk, then turning into a driveway. That possibly could have been the moment when Earls lost sight of the suspect and, by his own account, turned his attention to the truck the Alvarez family was traveling in, thinking the suspect had hopped inside. He had not.

The video continues, showing the robbery suspect looking over his shoulder several times, with no one chasing him any longer. He then hops over a gated fence, accidentally dropping what appears to be a woman’s wallet, possibly taken from Earls’ wife.

After that, the surveillance video ends. What was not shown is the moment the child got struck by gunfire.

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

After being shot, she was rushed to Memorial Hermann Hospital as Earls went home.

When Earls called police to report his robbery, he learned what happened. He returned to the scene, surrendered his gun, and was taken into custody. Earls was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and his bond was set at $100,000.

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

Earls’ attorney led a press conference where he and Earls’ wife said Earls was also a victim who was just trying to protect his family.

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.”

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.

The suspect is described only as a dark-skinned male with a thick build and full eyelashes. Anyone with information on the identity of the suspect seen in the surveillance video or on his whereabouts is urged to contact the HPD Homicide Division at 713-308-3600 or speak anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.

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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!