Suspected gunman says shooting was self-defense, offers prayers for 9-year-old victim's family

Houston police are investigating the tragic shooting death of 9-year-old Arlene Alvarez.

The 9-year-old was shot Monday evening outside a Chase Bank along Woodridge Drive in Southeast Houston.

RELATED: 9-year-old girl shot in unrelated vehicle during robbery dies

"I thought I was a perfect dad," said Arlene’s father, Armando Alvarez. "I thought I was doing everything [right]. We are trying to build a house right now.  We thought we were doing everything right, and just like that [she’s gone]."

Houston police say 41-year-old Tony D. Earls and his wife were at the Chase Bank ATM on Woodridge Drive when another man robbed them. Investigators said Earls shot at the man that ran away, then at Alvarez’s truck, thinking the innocent family driving by was involved in the robbery. 

Arlene Lynette Alvarez

"I have guns too," said Alvarez. "I own guns. I’m not against guns. I get it. The guy was protecting himself but have more common sense. There’s no reason for you to shoot more than three times when the robber was already literally two blocks down and then assume things, you know. She got hit right here.  She had her headphones. I know baby was looking down like this."

RELATED: Family members react after 9-year-old girl was fatally shot by robbery victim

The suspected shooter, 41-year-old Tony D. Earls, was arrested Tuesday and charged with aggravated assault with serious bodily injury.

Tony Earls, 41, is charged with aggravated assault - serious bodily injury after allegedly shooting at a car he thought was involved in his robbery. An innocent family was in the car and a 9-year-old girl was shot.

FOX 26 spoke with Earls and his wife off-camera on Tuesday. According to the couple, they were held at gunpoint for roughly four minutes at the ATM. At the same location in October, a woman was shot and killed in a robbery.

Tony’s wife claims her husband had been trying to protect them when he fired his gun. The couple says the thief, wearing a mask, stole a paper check, wallet, and $20. Earls claims the robber shot at them, so he fired back.


Over the phone, Earls wanted to apologize to the Alvarez family. He said he feels bad and that Arlene didn’t deserve it. Earls and his wife say they’re praying for Arlene’s parents, siblings, family, and friends.

The robbery suspect remains at large.

"We’ve got to be safer," said Alvarez.  "We’ve got to be smarter.  Just have some common sense."

Late Tuesday night, Bond for Earls was set at $100,000. Other conditions of his bond include random drug testing, travel restricted to Harris and contiguous counties, no drugs, alcohol, or firearms, will have an electronic monitoring device ordered, and will have a curfew from 8 p.m. until 8 a.m.