A South Carolina gas station owner has been charged with murder for fatally shooting a 14-year-old boy whom he falsely accused of stealing four bottles of water.
Rick Chow, 58, chased Cyrus Carmack-Belton from his Xpress Mart Shell store in Columbia before shooting the teen in the back at around 8pm on Sunday, the Richmond County Sheriff’s Department said in a press conference on Monday, according to WIS10.
Mr Chow had suspected the teenager of shoplifting, and after a verbal altercation Carmack-Belton fled the store, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott told reporters.
Mr Chow grabbed a pistol and pursued the teenager with his son. Carmack-Belton fell to the ground outside an apartment building, and when he got back up Mr Chow fired, investigators said.
A review of security footage by the sheriff’s department found the shoplifting claims were false and the teenager had returned the bottles of water to a refrigerator, he said.
“It’s senseless, it doesn’t make sense,” Sheriff Lott said during Monday’s press conference.
“Even if he had shoplifted four bottles of water, which he had taken out of the cooler and then put back — even if he had done that, that’s not something you should shoot anybody over, much less a 14-year-old,” he added.
“You just don’t do that.”
Deputies responding to the shooting on Sunday found Carmack-Belton lying on the side of the road. Sheriff Lott said a gun had been found near his body, but that there was no indication he had pointed the weapon at anyone.
He was taken to hospital and pronounced dead.
Coroner Naida Rutherford said the teenager had died from a single shot to the lower right back.
She said the wounds were consistent with someone who was running away, and should be classed as a homicide.
“This was not an accidental shooting by any means This was a very intentional shooting. And unfortunately, Cyrus Carmack-Belton lost his life,” she said.
In a TikTok, Ms Rutherford told through tears how she had a son the same age as Carmack-Belton.
“He could be my son, do you guys understand that? He could be any of our kids,” she said.
“I think I’m just like everybody else in the world — I’m just tired, I’m just tired of seeing our young black men killed,” Ms Rutherford said.
The sheriff’s department said that a crowd that gathered to protest the shooting on Monday had been dispersed after it turned violent.
Deputies had arrived to find windows smashed, and looters stealing items from the store.
Dozens of crushed water bottles littered the parking lot, and graffiti reading “Cyrus” and “14” covered the story, the Associated Press reported.
Those responsible for destruction would face prosecution, the sheriff said in a statement.
Mr Chow appeared in court on Tuesday, and was ordered to be held in bail pending a bail.