South Carolina Store Owner Charged with Murder for Fatally Shooting 14-Year-Old Black Teen He Suspected of Stealing Water

Rick Chow
Rick Chow Facebook

A convenience store owner in South Carolina is facing murder charges after he shot and killed a 14-year-old boy he suspected of shoplifting.

The Richland County Sheriff's Department says the shooting happened at a Shell gas station on Parklane Road in Columbia, around 8 p.m. Sunday night.

Teen Took Out 4 Water Bottles from the Cooler Before Putting Them Back

Rick Chow, who owns the Shell gas station chased Cyrus Carmack-Belton from his store and shot him just down the road in the 200 block of Springtree Drive, as reported by WAFB.

"It's senseless, it doesn't make sense," Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said in a Memorial Day press conference. "You have a family that's grieving, we have a community that's grieving over a 14-year-old who was shot."

The owner told police he suspected Carmack-Belton of shoplifting inside the store, which the department said did not happen. The department reviewed surveillance footage as part of this investigation.

"Regardless, 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, but you just don't do that," Sheriff Lott said.

Carmack-Belton was Shot in the Back While He was Running Away

At one point, there was a verbal confrontation inside the store, but no indication that things turned physical, according to Lott. Chow, 58, and his son chased Carmack-Belton down the street. The teenager fell but got back up and ran.

Chow's son told his father that Carmack-Belton was armed. Deputies recovered a gun believed to belong to the victim near his body, however, the department said there is no evidence that Carmack-Belton pointed it at or threatened Chow.

Lott said that Carmack-Belton was running away when he was shot. Richland County Coroner Naida Rutherford confirmed that the 14-year-old suffered one gunshot wound to the right lower back.

Chow Described as 'Nasty' and Rude by Customers, Seen Fighting with Girl Days Before Shooting

Cyrus Carmack Belton
A protester outside the Shell gas station holding a sign that reads, "Water or Life? Which Means More?" Twitter

Lott said there have been incidents and confrontations between customers and the owners of this store before, but nothing that would rise to the level of charging Chow in any of those incidents.

Several people described Chow as "nasty" and rude to customers. Protesters gathered around the store on Monday, demanding justice for Carmack-Belton. A cardboard sign had been taped on the door by a protester, which read: "Water or Life? Which Means More?"

A South Carolina-based community organization shared video footage of a man it claimed was an armed Chow involved an altercation with a teenage girl inside his store days before he fatally shot Carmack-Belton.