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9-Year-Old Texas Girl Dies After Mistakenly Being Shot By ATM Robbery Victim

HOUSTON (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — A horrible sequence of events on Valentine's Day ended with the death of a 9-year-old girl in Texas.

According to police, a man who had just been robbed at gunpoint at an ATM in Houston opened fire in an attempt to stop his attacker but instead shot the girl, who was sitting in the back seat of a truck driving nearby. The girl was rushed to a nearby hospital but eventually died from her injuries.

Arlene Alvarez, a fourth-grader, had been on life support before she died on February 15, her father Armando Alvarez told reporters. He said his daughter was sitting in his truck, wearing headphones when the shooting started during the evening on Valentine's Day.

"When we were getting shot at the first time, and I told them 'get down,' she was the only one who didn't get down. She didn't hear me," Alvarez said.

Tony D. Earls, 41
Tony D. Earls, 41 (credit: Houston Police Department)

Tony Earls, 41, was charged Tuesday with aggravated assault, serious bodily injury, in the shooting. He was being held in the Harris County Jail on a $30,000 bond. Court records did not list an attorney who could speak on his behalf.

Arlene's death was announced shortly after police said Earls had been charged. Dane Schiller, a spokesman for the Harris County District Attorney's Office, said prosecutors will look at possibly upgrading charges against Earls.

"Our hearts go out to the Alvarez family. We are going to review all the evidence, apply the law and determine what charges are appropriate," Schiller said.

Executive Assistant Police Chief Matt Slinkard on Monday night called the shooting "an unbelievably tragic event."

On Monday, Earls and his wife were at a Chase Bank ATM around 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, Earls 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. "It just goes to show, anytime that there's guns involved, the danger to innocent bystanders is extremely high," Slinkard said.

Alvarez said he was driving his family to Arlene's favorite restaurant when the shooting happened. He said his instinct was to drive faster when he heard the shooting start, to get away from the scene.

"As soon as I speed up, what are you doing? You are already coming next to him. You're going toward the guy shooting. So I guess when I speed up, he thought I was with that guy," Alvarez said.

Earls, 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.

Arlene 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 Feb. 8.

During a news conference Monday announcing a $30,000 reward for information in the shooting of Ashanti Grant, Mayor Sylvester Turner said officials were set to "go the extra mile" to protect children from violent crime. "These are our children and this foolishness has to stop," he said.

(© Copyright 2022 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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