A 14-year-old was fatally shot in the back Sunday by a South Carolina convenience store owner who wrongly accused him of shoplifting and chased him after a confrontation, authorities said.
Rick Chow, 58, was arrested Monday and charged with murder in connection with the death of Cyrus Carmack-Belton.
There was no evidence Carmack-Belton stole anything from the Shell gas station convenience store in Columbia, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott told reporters in a news briefing Monday.
“He did not shoplift anything,” Lott said. “We have no evidence that he stole anything whatsoever.”
Carmack-Belton entered the convenience store on Parklane Road at around 8 p.m., Lott said. At some point, the teen, Chow and the owner’s son started arguing, according to the sheriff, who did not disclose details about what led to the dispute. Eventually, Carmack-Belton left the store and took off running, Lott added.
The owner, armed with a pistol, and his son chased the teen toward a nearby apartment complex, Lott said, adding Carmack-Belton fell at one point but got back up.
Chow’s son said the teen had a gun, which is when the owner shot Carmack-Belton in the back as he was running away, according to the sheriff. Authorities later recovered a gun next to the teen’s body.
The wound caused significant damage to Carmack-Belton’s heart and hemorrhaging, Richland County Coroner Naida Rutherford added. He was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.
“It’s senseless,” Lott said. “It doesn’t make sense. You have a family that’s grieving. We have a community that’s grieving over a 14-year-old who was shot.”
The sheriff said even if Carmack-Belton took something from the store, it doesn’t warrant a shooting.
“Regardless, even if he had shoplifted four bottles of water, which is what he initially took out the cooler and then he put them back,” he added. “Even if he had done that, that’s not — that’s not something you shoot anybody over, much less a 14-year-old.”
The investigation determined the shooting was “not a bias motivated incident,” according to a report from the sheriff’s office. Carmack-Belton is Black. Chow is Asian.
A crowd gathered outside the store throughout the day Monday to protest, according to a police report. At around 9:43 p.m., several people broke into the store and took items off the shelves.
Pictures of the aftermath show Carmack-Belton’s name spray-painted on the facade of the store as well as broken glass and trash. Signs reading “No child deserves to die over water” and “CLOSE IT DOWN” can also be seen taped outside of the store.
Inside the location, racks were knocked down.
Chow was in custody Tuesday at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center, according to the sheriff’s office.
An attorney for Chow did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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