Rick Chow, South Carolina Store Owner, Faces Murder Charge After Shooting Black Teenager Mistaken for Shoplifter

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The tragic killing occurred on May 28 and caused profound grief in the local African American community of Richland County, where nearly half the population is Black.

Black Teenager Mistaken for Shoplifter
Black Teenager Mistaken for Shoplifter ( Photo: AP News )

Rick Chow, an Asian store owner in South Carolina, is facing a murder charge following an incident where he allegedly shot a Black 14-year-old boy, Cyrus Carmack-Belton, whom he had falsely accused of stealing water

Investigators found a gun near the victim’s body but no evidence suggesting that Carmack-Belton posed a threat to Rick Chow or his son, who pursued the teenager in a 500-foot chase from their family’s Xpress Mart Shell station in Columbia.

A prosecutor has requested a search warrant for Rick Chow and his family’s business records to examine the store’s employee manual and other documents that could shed light on how Rick Chow typically dealt with shoplifters and whether Carmack-Belton was treated differently. However, Rick Chow’s lawyer, Jack Swerling, argued that they had already voluntarily provided the requested materials without a warrant and contended that investigators were now seeking items they were not legally entitled to access, such as checks, bank accounts, and other business-related information.

During an emergency hearing, Judge Robert Hood temporarily halted state agents from executing the search warrant, promising a ruling in the coming month. The shooting incident sparked protests outside Rick Chow’s store, with demonstrators demanding justice and accusing Rick Chow of mistreating Black customers. Police records revealed two prior incidents where Rick Chow allegedly shot at shoplifters, claiming self-defense, but he did not face charges on those occasions.

Prosecutor April Sampson asserted that Rick Chow and his son treated Carmack-Belton differently from other customers from the moment he entered the store, contrary to the store policy

While Rick Chow’s lawyer argued that the store’s only employee manual was a short document that did not specify procedures for dealing with shoplifters and that as owners, they had the discretion to set and follow policies as they deemed fit.

The tragic shooting of Cyrus Carmack-Belton has ignited a debate over racial biases and the treatment of Black customers, raising questions about whether the shooting was justified or if it represents a pattern of behavior by Rick Chow.

 

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