A man who had just been robbed at gunpoint at an ATM in southeast Houston opened fire in an attempt to stop his attacker but instead fatally shot a 9-year-old girl in a truck driving nearby, Houston police say.
The girl, identified by family members to KPRC as Arlene Alvarez, remained hospitalized in critical condition until her family pulled her off life support Tuesday afternoon.
Houston police identified the 41-year-old man who shot the girl as Tony Earls. He was arrested and, before the girl died, was expected to be charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Earls may now face additional charges.
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“This is an unbelievably tragic event,” Executive Assistant Police Chief Matt Slinkard told reporters Monday night.
Several children have been shot in the Houston area this year -- and the girl is the second 9-year-old girl to be shot in Houston within a week. Ashanti Grant remains hospitalized after being shot in the head during a road rage attack on Feb. 8. Four days before that, 11-year-old Darius Dugas, a sixth-grader was fatally shot in the parking lot of his Houston-area apartment complex. On Feb. 8, a 13-year-old was shot multiple times and injured outside a grocery store. On New Year’s Day, the 4-year-old niece of George Floyd was wounded when someone fired into her Houston apartment as she slept.
In Monday’s shooting, the man and his wife were at the ATM at about 9:45 p.m. when another man walked up to their vehicle and robbed them at gunpoint, Slinkard said.
As the suspect fled on foot, the man got out of his vehicle and opened fire, including at a pickup truck he thought the robbery suspect had climbed into, police said.
But the truck carrying a family of five was not involved and had been “simply driving” down a street near the ATM, Slinkard said.
“It just goes to show, anytime that there are guns involved, the danger to innocent bystanders is extremely high,” Slinkard said.
The man, who later called police to report the robbery, told authorities he did not know his gunfire had hit the truck.
Police were searching for the robbery suspect. They have not determined if that man returned fire or was shot.
Earlier this month, Houston officials announced a $44 million plan to tackle rising violent crime in the nation’s fourth-largest city. Like other major cities across the U.S., Houston has seen an increase in violent crime in the last couple of years amid the pandemic.
“These are our children and this foolishness has to stop,” Turner said.