Back in February 2022, 9-year-old Arlene Alvarez was shot and killed while sitting in a car in a parking lot in Harris County, Texas. The shooter was a 41-year-old man named Tony Earls. Earls was robbed at gunpoint by an as-yet-unknown assailant, and drew his own gun to defend himself from the burglar. At some point in the scuffle, Earls deliberately shot at the car that he thought belonged to the man trying to rob him.
Turned out, that car belonged to the Alvarez family. And 9-year-old Arlene was sitting in the backseat. According to Arlene's mother, Gwen, Earls shot at the car least nine times. "Self-defense is not more than nine shots," she said. "He knew what he was doing, and he knew he was going to intentionally kill whoever was in that vehicle."
But a Texas grand jury disagreed, and declined to charge Earls. The district attorney explained the decision, according to the local ABC News affiliate:
"The grand jury, a random group of ordinary people in Harris County who answered their jury summons, heard the evidence in this case as presented by our prosecutors, heard all of the possible charges — from murder to manslaughter to aggravated assault to criminally-negligent homicide. That grand jury also heard possible defenses," Ogg said, explaining that deadly force can be excused including under defense of property cases.
"It is very hard to understand and accept (the grand jury's decision), and what I've asked them to do is to work with us to catch the killer," Ogg said, acknowledging the inability to disagree with the grand jury but the ability to move forward in the case.
The argument here, as I understand it — and as even the AD doesn't sound fully convinced — is that Earls is not responsible for the killing because he thought he was killing someone else, and that the person truly responsible here is the person who tried to rob Earls in the first place. Which I guess is sort of like a felony murder concept, for civilians?
The authorities are supposedly now trying to find the man who robbed Earls back in February. If they find him, I'm sure they'll do their best to let him hang … which still won't deliver justice to the Alvarez family.
No Indictment for Robbery Victim Who Allegedly Killed 9-Year-Old Girl by Mistake [Alberto Luperon / Law & Crime]
Texas grand jury declines to indict man accused of killing 9-year-old girl while shooting at armed robber [Rebekah Riess / CNN]