HOUSTON – Authorities continue to search for a robbery suspect who they believe is responsible for a deadly chain of events after a Harris County Grand Jury declined to indict the gunman who is believed to have pulled the trigger in the fatal shooting of 9-year-old Arlene Alvarez, District Attorney Kim Ogg announced on Tuesday.
“Our hearts go out to the Alvarez family because Arlene’s death is a tragedy that is unimaginable,” Ogg said. “We are focusing all of our efforts on finding the suspect who set this chain of events in motion and bringing him to justice.”
Alvarez was fatally struck by a bullet while riding in the back of her family’s truck on Feb. 14 after Tony Earls reportedly shot her on accident while trying to aim at a robbery suspect, according to Houston police.
Around 9:45 p.m., police said 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. She was rushed to Memorial Hermann Hospital where she remained on life support until succumbing to her injuries on Feb. 15.
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 appeared to be accidental, Earls was originally charged with aggravated assault- causing serious bodily injury.
Ogg noted that grand juries are composed of randomly selected citizens who hear all of the evidence in a case in secret. Grand jurors were presented with all of the evidence and asked to determine if there was sufficient evidence for a criminal charge.
Earls’ attorneys, Brennen Dunn and Myrecia Donaldson, released the following statement after the grand jury’s decision:
“We would first like to extend our condolences to the Alvarez family once more. There is no greater loss than that of a loved one, and we continue to grieve for the loss of such a beautiful soul. While that life weighs heavy on us, we are happy with the grand jury’s finding in this case. Their decision reflects our position since the onset of this case. The worlds of two different families were clashing at once, from different perspectives. Mr. Earls did what we believe anyone in that situation would have done.
We are relieved that, despite the emotion and tough decisions that had to be made in dealing with this case, justice was served for Mr. Earls. We do not envy the difficult task of the grand jury, but we certainly appreciate their careful deliberation. We stand in support of the Alvarez family as justice continues to be sought for Arlene Alvarez. Mr. Earls is prepared to assist authorities however he can, to bring the person responsible to justice.
We also hope that the DA’s office will not be so hasty in the future to charge the best available person, but rather, the most appropriate one.”
The robbery suspect whose crime led to the accidental shooting death of the innocent child is still on the run.
The suspect was described as a tall, medium to dark-skinned male, with a medium to heavyset build, wearing a mask and gloves. It is believed the suspect knew the layout of that area, and authorities say this robbery doesn’t appear to be his first.
In addition to Crime Stoppers’ $5,000 reward, Tillman Fertitta has donated up to $25,000, totaling the reward to $30,000 for information leading to the arrest of the robbery suspect.
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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