HOUSTON — The 9-year-old girl shot by a robbery victim who thought he was shooting at the suspect who robbed him has died, according to Houston police.
Arlene Alvarez had been hospitalized in critical condition since the Monday night shooting but doctors weren't able to save her.
“I think she passed away yesterday, to be honest with you guys," said Arlene's dad, Armando. "As a dad, she passed away in my arms. Something not really to brag about or talk about but I saw her come in and I saw her leave, I can tell you that.”
Arlene's father said she was a loving little girl who adored her two little brothers and helped care for them.
“We just had our 4-month-old son. She always wanted to be there to change his diapers. She was a mom. She was trying so hard to be a mom.”
Before her death, the Houston Police Department said the man accused of shooting Arlene had been charged with aggravated assault with serious bodily injury. He's identified as 41-year-old Tony D. Earls. It's unknown if the charges will be upgraded now.
Arlene was in the backseat of her family’s truck when bullets started flying as they were driving along Winkler Drive in southeast Houston.
"I don't wish this on nobody," said Armando. "If you've got kids, hold them tight. Hug them. We think we're perfect, we think we're doing everything right then from one day to the next day it's not even your fault, the tables turn and the worst."
Houston police said it all started as a robbery outside a nearby Chase Bank on Woodridge Drive.
Earls was at the bank’s ATM drive-thru with his wife Monday around 9:45 p.m. when a suspect walked up to their car and robbed him at gunpoint. As the suspect ran away, police said Earls got out of his car and shot at the suspect. He then opened fire on a truck he thought the suspect jumped into.
Instead, the truck was carrying Arlene, her younger brothers and their parents. They were headed to Spanky's Pizza for a Valentine's dinner when a bullet pierced the back window of the truck and struck Arlene.
Armando said Arlene didn't suffer.
“I knew she was gone since last night," said Armando. "Soon as the bullet hit her head. I saw it with my own eyes. I saw everything."
A witness who pulled up shortly after the shooting described what he saw.
“I could hear her talking real low to her dad and her dad was talking to her trying to comfort her,” Joe Maldonado said. “The mom was really, she was hysterical, she was basically just running around in circles around the dad and the daughter just looking up at the sky. It was pretty scary to see that.”
Arlene's dad told KHOU 11 she was a 4th grader at De Zavala and a great big sister. He said Arlene also loved to do video blogs of herself doing her own nails.
Armando said the family gathered at the hospital to pray and say goodbye Tuesday before the machines keeping Arlene alive were turned off.
Police said they spoke to Earls and he was ultimately arrested and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for the shooting.
Police said, at first, Earls did not know that someone had been hit by his gunfire. He had actually left the scene and called in the robbery to the police.
The robbery suspect got away and has not been identified yet.