A South Carolina convenience store owner has been charged with murder in the fatal shooting of a 14-year-old black boy he falsely accused of shoplifting, chased and shot in the back Sunday night, authorities said.
Store owner Rick Chow, 58, charged Monday, believed the boy, Cyrus Carmack-Belton, had stolen four bottles of water from his Xpress Mart Shell Station in Columbia, the County Sheriff’s Office said. Richland.
But Sheriff Leon Lott told a news conference Monday that Cyrus hadn’t stolen and described the shooting as unwarranted.
However, at approximately 8:00 p.m., Mr. Chow and his son, whose name has not been released by the sheriff’s office, chased Cyrus to a nearby apartment complex, where the teenager fell and got back up, ha said Sheriff Lott.
Mr. Chow’s son saw that Cyrus had a gun, Sheriff Lott said, and the store owner shot Cyrus in the back, killing him, the sheriff said. There is no evidence that Cyrus pulled a gun on the shop owner or his child, authorities said.
Describing the shooting as « disturbing, » Sheriff Lott said that even if Cyrus had stolen the water bottles, « it’s not something you shoot anyone over, much less a 14-year-old. »
Mr. Chow’s attorney did not immediately return calls seeking comment Tuesday night.
The shooting sparked outrage in Colombia, where scores of protesters gathered at Mr Chow’s shop on Monday. Later that night, the store was vandalized and looted, according to the sheriff, who urged protesters to be peaceful. Photos from the store showed graffiti on the building and yellow crime scene tape around it. Among the spray-painted messages were « RIP King Cyrus » and his age, 14.
In the Columbia case, Richland County coroner Naida Rutherford told the press conference that there was no indication that Cyrus « was arguing with the store owner before he ran out of the store. »
Cyrus had no wounds on his hands or scratches, he said. His only injuries were an abrasion from the fall and a gunshot wound to his lower right back, Ms Rutherford said.
Mr. Chow, who legally owned the gun used in the shooting, had been involved in actual shoplifting and fights in the past, the sheriff said.
But, Sheriff Lott added, « you don’t do what happened » Sunday night, referring to the shooting.
State Representative Todd Rutherford, a Democrat who also represents Cyrus’ family, said by phone that Cyrus, known for always having a smile, « did nothing wrong » and was « hounded like an animal. »
He said he wasn’t sure why Cyrus had a gun.
« It’s possible he felt he needed it to protect himself, » Mr. Rutherford said. « But in the face of confrontation, he didn’t use it. »
On Facebook, Mr Rutherford wrote that what had happened to Cyrus was not an accident, but « something the black community has experienced for generations: being racially profiled, then put down in the street like a dog. »
Sheelagh McNeill contributed to the research.