‘It just goes to show, anytime that there’s guns involved, the danger to innocent bystanders is extremely high’
A nine-year-old girl has died after being shot by a robbery victim who was trying to stop his attacker.
Tony Earls, 41, was charged on Tuesday with aggravated assault and serious bodily injury. He was robbed at gunpoint alongside his wife at an ATM in southeast Houston, Texas on Monday night at around 9.45pm.
A man walked up to their car and robbed them after their ATM visit, according to Executive Assistant Police Chief Matt Slinkard, who said it was “an unbelievably tragic event”.
Arlene Alvarez, 9, was put on life support but died in hospital on Tuesday after being shot in her family’s truck following the robbery, according to her father Armando Alvarez.
After the robbery, Mr Earls had allegedly exited his vehicle and discharged his firearm in the direction of the suspect, who was fleeing on foot.
But Mr Earls allegedly also fired towards the pickup truck, thinking the suspect had entered the vehicle. The truck was in fact carrying the girl’s family of five, who had been “simply driving” down a street near the ATM, Mr Slinkard said.
The girl was in the backseat with her headphones on when the shooting took place.
“It just goes to show, anytime that there’s guns involved, the danger to innocent bystanders is extremely high," il ajouta.
Mr Alvarez said the family was on their way to his daughter’s favourite restaurant when the shooting occurred and that his instant reaction was to drive faster to get away from the area.
“As soon as I speed up, que fais-tu? 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," il a dit.
“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,” Mr Alvarez added.
Mr Earls called the police to report the robbery, later telling law enforcement that he was unaware that he had hit the truck.
Police were searching for the robbery suspect and they have not determined if he returned fire or was shot.
Mr Earls was being held at the Harris County Jail on a $30,000 lier. Court records didn’t indicate that he had an attorney to speak on his behalf.
Harris County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Dane Schiller said prosecutors will look at elevating the charges against Mr 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,” Mr Schiller said.
Houston, like many other large US cities, has experienced an increase in violent crime during the pandemic, while overall crime has dropped.
Overall crime in Houston dropped by 3.4 pour cent en 2021, including a 12 per cent drop in sexual assaults, un 11.4 per cent drop in robberies and a 10 per cent drop in burglaries.
But homicides increased by more than 18 per cent last year to a total of 479. Dès mardi matin, Houston police had reported 62 homicides so far this year, une 32 per cent increase from the same time period in 2021, when there were 47. During the same time in 2020, there were 40.
The recent surge in homicides is still below Houston’s highest murder tally of 701 homicides in 1981, when the city was dubbed the murder capital of the United States.
The Associated Press contributed to this report