The South Carolina gas station owner charged with murder for fatally shooting a 14-year-old boy on Sunday night has opened fire at shoplifters at least twice in the past, according to reports.
Rick Chow, 58, allegedly shot Cyrus Carmack-Belton dead outside his Xpress Shell Mart in Columbia on suspicion that the teen was trying to steal four water bottles. However, police reviewed surveillance footage and determined that no shoplifting had taken place.
On Wednesday, Richland police revealed that they have responded to hundreds of calls from the Parkland Road gas station over the last five years, with incidents ranging from assaults to larceny to robbery to vandalism. Of the shoplifting encounters, Chow reportedly fired at two suspects.
The first incident occurred on May 4, 2015, and involved a woman who stole two cases of Bud Light and a pack of boiled peanuts, as per CBS News.
A struggle ensued outside the store and the woman threatened to shoot Chow.
The store owner managed to retrieve the beer and the woman’s purse, which contained the peanuts. As the woman got in her car to flee with another man, Chow pulled out a .45 caliber Glock and fired six times at the passenger window.
No one was seriously injured in the shooting. The scuffle, however, left Chow with two scratches and broken glasses, NBC News noted.
The second incident occurred on Oct. 12, 2018.
This time, a man identified as Alexis Aguilera took a can of Easy-Off cleaner and hid it in his clothes.
Aguilera assaulted Chow after being confronted. In response, Chow fired at the shoplifter twice, hitting him in the leg.
Aguilera later pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the incident. Police said Chow had acted in self-defense in both cases, but Sunday’s incident was different.
A gun was found near Carmack-Belton’s body after the incident, but there was no indication that the teen had pointed a weapon at Chow.
“Even if he had shoplifted four bottles of water, which is what he initially took out of the cooler and then he put them back, even if he’d done that, that’s not something you shoot anybody over, much less a 14-year-old,” said Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott. “You just don’t do that.”
Chow and his son both chased Carmack-Belton out of their store. The teen was fatally shot in the right lower back, which appeared “consistent with someone who was running away from the assailant,” according to Richland County Coroner Nadia Rutherford.
“This is not an accidental shooting by any means. This was a very intentional shooting,” she said.
Carmack-Belton’s funeral has been scheduled on Saturday noon at Second Nazareth Baptist Church.
Democratic state Rep. Todd Rutherford, the attorney for Carmack-Belton’s family, described the incident as a case of racial profiling.
“What happened to him wasn’t an accident. It’s something that the Black community has experienced for generations: being racially profiled, then shot down in the street like a dog,” Rutherford wrote in an Instagram post.
South Carolina’s lone Black congressman, Rep. Jim Clyburn (D, SC-6), also released a statement to condemn the incident.
“The criminalization of Black men and boys and the historic trend of painting them as aggressors have time and again led to deadly and heartbreaking circumstances,” he said. “Carmack-Belton has since been declared innocent, but his supposed crime of shoplifting a bottle of water should not have cost him his life. I pray justice is swift.”
Chow remains held at the Richland County jail, where he awaits a bond hearing. If convicted of his charges, he could face 30 years to life in prison.
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