A Black teenager was fatally shot in the back Sunday in South Carolina by a convenience store owner who wrongly accused him of shoplifting.
Rick Chow, 58, was arrested and charged Monday for the murder of Cyrus Carmack-Belton, 14. Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott told reporters at a news briefing that Belton "did not shoplift anything."
"We have no evidence that he stole anything whatsoever," he said.
Lott said that Carmack-Belton entered Chow's store around 8p.m. While it is unclear what led to the confrontation, Carmack-Belton and Chow's son reportedly began arguing before Carmack-Belton fled the store. Chow, armed with a pistol, and his son then chased after Carmack-Belton. Carmack-Belton fell as he ran, getting back up, before Chow shot him in the back as he fled.
Carmack-Belton was pronounced dead at the hospital soon after. A gun was recovered next to his body, but authorities said there was no evidence he ever used the weapon to threaten or even defend himself against Chow and his son.
Lott called the shooting "senseless," noting that even if Carmack-Belton had shoplifted, Chow's actions were not an appropriate response.
"You have a family that’s grieving. We have a community that’s grieving over a 14-year-old who was shot," he continued. "Even if he had shoplifted four bottles of water, which is what he initially took out the cooler and then he put them back, even if he had done that, that's not— that's not something you shoot anybody over, much less a 14-year-old."
While Carmack-Belton was Black, and Chow is Asian, the Sheriff's office determined the shooting was “not a bias motivated incident,” with investigators saying they found no evidence to suggest racial bias was a motivator.
Democratic State Rep. Todd Rutherford disagreed in an Instagram post, writing that the shooting is "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," he continued. "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. You’re outraged. I’m outraged."