(CNN)A grand jury in Harris County, Texas, on Tuesday declined to indict a man who allegedly killed 9-year-old Arlene Alvarez while shooting at an armed robber in February, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said.
Texas grand jury declines to indict man accused of killing 9-year-old girl while shooting at armed robber
"I just want to tell the family how saddened we are," Ogg said. "We don't have the luxury of disagreeing with the jury's verdict, with the grand jury's determination. But we have the ability to move forward and to catch the person who they've indicated is criminally responsible."
The killing happened February 14 at about 9:30 p.m. when Tony Earls and his wife drove to a drive-thru ATM to deposit some cash and a check, according to the district attorney's office. A man then ran up and put a gun in the wife's face and demanded their money, car keys and her wallet, the prosecutor's office said.
The couple initially complied with the robber, handing over the check, cash and wallet, before the robber started to run away, the office said. Earls, who stepped out of the vehicle, said he heard gunshots and believed he was being shot at, so he shot at the robber, the office said.
However, he ended up striking a truck that happened to be driving by at the same time, killing 9-year-old Arlene Alvarez in the backseat, the district attorney's office said.
The girl's parents, Armando and Gwen Alvarez, told CNN affiliate KHOU in February that the family was driving to a Houston restaurant for Valentine's Day dinner when Arlene was shot in the head.
"I immediately stopped, pulled her out of the vehicle," Armando Alvarez said. "I hope nobody ever has to go through this."
The robbery suspect, who remains at large, will face felony murder charges in the killing, Ogg said. A $30,000 reward is being offered for information leading to his capture.
"We're going to focus on catching the robbery suspect who started this chain of events," she said. "I know we can find this killer with your help. Someone knows who he is."
Arlene's aunt, April Aguirre, lamented the lack of charges at a joint news conference with Ogg on Tuesday.
"I wish it was Tony Earls who was found guilty, but I know that the decision is final with the grand jury," she said. "I pray that we can find this person and bring him to justice, because Arlene didn't want to die. She didn't want to die on a Monday night, on her way to dinner."
She called on the public to turn in the robbery suspect.
"I want somebody held accountable, because this family shouldn't continue to suffer like this. This is unexplainable pain," she said. "Gwen and Armando and the rest of the Alvarez family deserves to have their little girl. She didn't deserve this ending."
Earls' attorneys, Brennen Dunn and Myrecia Donaldson, said in a statement to CNN that they are pleased with the jury's decision.
"We would first like to extend our condolences to the Alvarez family once more. There is no greater loss than that of a loved one, and we continue to grieve for the loss of such a beautiful soul," Dunn and Donaldson said.
"We are relieved that, despite the emotion and tough decisions that had to be made in dealing with this case, justice was served for Mr. Earls. We do not envy the difficult task of the grand jury, but we certainly appreciate their careful deliberation," they said. "We stand in support of the Alvarez family as justice continues to be sought for Arlene Alvarez. Mr. Earls is prepared to assist authorities however he can, to bring the person responsible to justice."