Convenience store owner in So. Carolina charged with murder

Jun 1, 2023, 8:00 AM | Updated: Jun 22, 2023, 4:55 pm

The store owner, identified as 58-year-old Rick Chow, was arrested and charged Monday with Cyrus’...

The store owner, identified as 58-year-old Rick Chow, was arrested and charged Monday with Cyrus’ murder, according to the sheriff’s office. Mandatory Credit: Richland County Sheriff's Dpartment

(CNN) — A South Carolina convenience store owner has been charged with murder after allegedly chasing a 14-year-old boy and shooting him in the back after suspecting the boy of shoplifting, authorities said.

The child, Cyrus Carmack-Belton, had gone into the store in Columbia around 8 p.m. Sunday and was confronted by the owner who accused him of shoplifting, according to Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott.

“He did not shoplift anything. We have no evidence that he stole anything whatsoever,” the sheriff said in a news conference Monday, adding even if he had, “that’s not something you shoot anybody over, much less a 14-year-old.”

“We are confident that this was done in a manner that we will now classify as a homicide. This was not an accidental shooting by any means,” Richland County Coroner Naida Rutherford said during the news conference. “This was a very intentional shooting. And unfortunately, Cyrus Carmack-Belton lost his life.”

Firearms are the leading cause of death for children in the US, surpassing car accidents in 2020, and accounting for nearly 19% of childhood deaths in 2021, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Wonder database.

In no other comparable country are firearms within the top four causes of mortality among children, according to a KFF analysis.

Cyrus’ killing spurred protests Monday as community members grieved and demanded justice outside the store.

Following the peaceful protests, the convenience store was looted and vandalized, with the outside being spray-painted and the windows shattered, an incident report from the sheriff’s department said.

The store owner, identified as 58-year-old Rick Chow, was arrested and charged Monday with Cyrus’ murder, according to the sheriff’s office.

He was denied bond at a hearing Tuesday and his first appearance is set for June 23, court records show. CNN has attempted to reach Chow’s attorney, James Snell, for comment.

How the shooting happened

According to the sheriff, after Chow confronted Cyrus, the boy left the store and took off running, and was chased by Chow – armed with a pistol – and Chow’s son.

Cyrus ran out of his shoe, fell down and got back up and continued to run, an incident report from the sheriff’s department said.

“At some point, the son said … that the victim had a gun – and we did recover a gun that was close to his body. At that point, the father shot the young man in the back,” the sheriff said.

Chow reportedly saw what looked to be a firearm, pulled out his Glock 30S, and fired one shot, according to the incident report.

Deputies arrived to find Cyrus lying on his back as a bystander did chest compressions. A firearm was found several feet from the victim, the report states.

The child died of the single gunshot wound to his right lower back that “seems to be consistent with someone who was running away from the assailants,” the coroner said during the news conference.

The convenience store location has had a number of shoplifting incidents in the past, including confrontations involving the owners of the store, according to Lott.B

The family’s attorney, state Rep. Todd Rutherford, said he was “outraged” by the shooting.

“What happened to (Cyrus) wasn’t an accident,” he said. “It’s something that the Black community has experienced for generations: being racially profiled, then shot down in the street like a dog. Words can’t describe the pain I feel having known this family for decades.”

Rutherford added, “I’m asking that our community continue to wrap their arms around this family as they’ve joined the club that no Black family ever wants to be a part of.”

The sheriff’s office incident report said the shooting was “not a bias motivated incident.”

Deputies are guarding the store

In light of the vandalism and looting Monday night, Richland County deputies are now guarding the convenience store, Lott said at a news conference Tuesday.

A group of people entered the store and took “everything they could get their hands on,” Lott said, calling it “totally unnecessary.”

He warned that investigators were working to identify and arrest those who stole from the store.

“What does stealing a case of beer have to do with a 14-year-old being shot and the person responsible being charged with murder? Someone explain that. What does that have to do with stealing beer?” Lott asked. “Go ahead, drink that beer, and enjoy it right now, because you’re going to pay for it later.”

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Convenience store owner in So. Carolina charged with murder