Authorities revealed that the gas station owner who shot and killed a 14-year-old Black boy in South Carolina has been involved in at least two known “prior altercations in which he confronted people he suspected of shoplifting and then opened fire.”
Per Richland County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Veronica Hill, in 2015 during one of the incidents, Rick Chow “fired six times at a car after he tried to stop someone he suspected of shoplifting,” and then three years later in 2018, “he shot a man in the leg.”
Chow reportedly accused teenager Cyrus Carmack-Belton of stealing bottles of water on May 30. He then chased him from his store and fatally shot him in the back, resulting in the teen’s untimely death.
Now instead of preparing for Carmack-Belton’s upcoming transition to high school, his family is in mourning and planning a funeral.
Hill said that authorities made the determination to refrain from pressing charges because Chow’s conduct “did not meet the requirements under South Carolina to support criminal charges,” and they did not consider Chow as the instigator in either of these aforementioned incidents, citing them as self-defense.
Of note, to establish self-defense under South Carolina law, the only requirement is for the shooter to not be the instigator, and for the shooter to believe “he is in imminent danger and has no way to avoid that danger.”
Deputies decided that was not the case for Carmack-Belton, and now 58-year-old Chow is facing murder charges from this latest violent altercation.
Despite accusing Carmack-Belton of stealing four bottles of water, investigators found that store video backs up Carmack-Belton’s innocence and even shows the teen putting “the bottles back in the cooler.” After an argument, Carmack-Belton fled the store property and was still running away when he was killed by a bullet that traveled through his back and punctured his heart.
During a press conference, Sheriff Leon Lott said, “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.” “
You don’t shoot somebody in the back that is not a threat to you,” added Sheriff Lott.
South Carolina has only one Black congressman, Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn, who released a statement following this tragedy, “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.”
Clyburn continued: “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.”