COLUMBIA, S.C. — A South Carolina gas station owner accused of fatally shooting a 14-year-old boy in the back after chasing him from the store made his first appearance in court on Tuesday.
Rick Chow, 58, of Columbia, was charged with murder and will remain in jail at least until bond is set at a later date, The State newspaper of Columbia reported.
Chow was charged with fatally shooting Cyrus Carmack-Belton after an apparent argument inside the store on Sunday night, according to the newspaper.
According to the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, Chow allegedly chased the teen from his store after suspecting Carmack-Belton of shoplifting four bottles of water from the Xpress Mart Shell station at about 8 p.m. EDT, WIS-TV reported.
Sheriff Leon Lott told reporters on Monday that the teen had put the bottles back in the cooler and had left the store after arguing with Chow, WLTX-TV reported.
“We have no evidence that he stole anything, whatsoever,” Lott said.
Lott added that Chow’s son began chasing Carmack-Belton, with the store owner following while allegedly carrying a pistol, according to the television station.
The sheriff added that the chase continued to a nearby apartment complex, where the victim tripped before scrambling to his feet. Chow’s son then told him that the boy had a gun, and that led to the suspect allegedly shooting the teen, WLTX reported.
“It’s just senseless,” Lott said at a news conference on Monday. “It doesn’t make sense. You have a family just grieving. We have a community just grieving over a 14-year-old who was shot.”
Lott said he believed that Chow had a legal permit to carry a concealed weapon, but added that “you don’t shoot somebody in the back who’s not a threat to you.”
“That’s the same standard that we do, the same standard that cops have to live by,” Lott told reporters. “You have to be defending someone’s life or your life, and there has to be an immediate danger to you at that point.”
Chow and his attorney, James Snell, declined to speak during Tuesday’s hearing, WIS reported.
Columbia attorney Todd Rutherford’s firm is representing the victim’s family, according to The State. A representative from Rutherford’s firm and members of the victim’s family also declined to comment about the case, according to the newspaper.
Shortly after the hearing, Rutherford posted a photo of Carmack-Belton on Instagram.
“This could have been MY son. In fact, the WAS my son. When Cyrus Carmack-Belton’s mother sent this picture to me I had to do a double take because he looked so much like my middle son,” Rutherford wrote. “What happened to him wasn’t an accident. It’s something that the Black community has experienced for generations: being racially profiled, then shot down in the street like a dog.”