A South Carolina gas station owner charged with murder for shooting a 14-year-old boy he wrongly accused of shoplifting allegedly has a history of opening fire on suspected thieves.
Rick Chow, 58, is accused of chasing 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.
“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,” Sheriff Lott said.
Officials said police had been called to the Xpress Mart on numeerous occasions following reports of shoplifting and, on two occasions, shootings in which Mr Chow had been accused of firing at shoplifters as they fled the store.
Redacted incident reports show that on one occasion, on 4 May 2015, a shopkeeper believed to be Mr Chow struggled with a woman outside of the Xpress Mart after she stole a case of Bud Light. As the woman attempted to drive off, the shopkeeper fired at her vehicle.
On another occasion, on 12 October 2018, the shopkeeper confronted another shoplifter who took oven cleaner without paying. During the confrontation, the shoplifter assaulted the shopkeeper, who fired at him twice - hitting him once in the leg.
Although the name of the shopkeeper was redacted in the reports, CBS confirmed that the reports named Mr Chow as the shooter in both cases - while Richland County Sheriff’s Department confirmed Mr Chow was involved in the incidents.
In the recent shooting of teenager Carmack-Belton, police said the boy had been mistaken for a shoplifter, and ran from the store after an altercation with Mr Chow.
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.
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