Nine-year-old Arlene Alvarez was shot dead in Houston, Texas, as she was in a car with her parents and younger siblings driving to watch a movie and enjoy a family meal on St. Valentine.
The parents of a nine-year-old girl shot dead on Valentine’s Day have described their ‘unfathomable grief’ in a heartbreaking case of ‘mistaken identity’.
Arlene Alvarez, nine, and her parents were on their way to have a family meal and watch a movie together when they witnessed an armed robbery at a drive-thru ATM in Houston, Texas.
Arlene’s father, Armando, shouted to his family to take cover, but tragically the young girl had headphones on and missed her father’s warning.
She was rushed to hospital on February 14 but died of her injuries the following day.
In an emotional press conference, the girl’s mother, Gwen, told her last words to her daughter before she was shot.
“Get down, Arlene,” her mother had shouted.
“I didn’t scream loud enough. I didn’t know she had her headphones on.” Gwen said through tears.
Houston police charged Tony D. Earls, 41, with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in what they described as an apparent case of ‘mistaken identity,’ according to CNN.
Earls would have been unaware that someone had been hit by his gunfire.
The police department said Earls launched the attack in retaliation for another suspect who robbed Earls at gunpoint from the Chase Bank branch ATM.
The thief fled the scene, police said, but Earls then opened fire on a vehicle he said belonged to the man who robbed it.
In fact, it was the Alvarez family car, where Arlene’s terrified parents saw their daughter being shot in front of them.
Dad, Armando was just 10ft from the car as he watched the man continue to “spray the vehicle” and saw one of the bullets hit his daughter in the head.
Alvarez family attorney Rick Ramos said Earls did not have a valid case of self-defense because there was no “immediate threat or fear” to his safety when he opened the fire because the robbery suspect had already fled the scene.
“At that point, you lose your right to self-defense,” he added.
The identity of the robbery suspect, who is still at large, is still under investigation, Houston Police Chief Executive Matt Slinkard said.
He said: “Whenever there are guns, the danger to innocent bystanders is extremely high.”
Arlene’s mum described her daughter as a ‘warrior’ after battling her injuries for 24 hours – but she was ultimately left ‘brain dead’ with no level of medical intervention capable of saving her.
The schoolgirl was in fourth grade and enjoyed looking after her two younger siblings who were also in the car at the time of the shooting.
Armando said “We just had our 4 month old son.
“She always wanted to be there to change her diapers. She was a mom.
“She got along with everyone, she loved making TikTok videos, she was as happy as can be,” he said.
Onlooker Joe Maldonado had stopped at the drive-thru when he saw the devastating scene unfold.
Describing the scene in an interview with KHOU, he said, “I could hear her talking very softly to her father and her father was talking to her trying to comfort her.
“The mother was really, she was hysterical, she was circling around the father and the daughter was looking at the sky. It was quite scary to see that.”
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner sent his thoughts to the “precious little girl”‘s family in a statement on Twitter.
It read: “The precious little girl was an innocent victim caught in the crossfire of an incident that had nothing to do with her or her family.”
“My heart goes out to Arlene’s mother, father and siblings after her tragic death this afternoon.
“We cannot imagine their unfathomable grief.”