Is This Murder? You Make the Call

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In a tragic incident that Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott condemned as “senseless,” Rick Chow, a 58-year-old convenience store owner in Columbia, faces charges related to the fatal shooting of a 14-year-old boy.

In a press briefing held on Monday, Sheriff Lott revealed that Chow, the proprietor of the Shell gas station located at 7441 Parklane Road, is charged with murder. Chow is now incarcerated at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center.

Richland County Coroner, Naida Rutherford, identified the young victim as Cyrus Carmack-Belton, a resident of Columbia. According to Rutherford, Carmack-Belton succumbed to a single gunshot wound, specifically inflicted on his back.

The sheriff expressed deep sympathy for the pain felt by the victim’s family and the community, stating, “We have a family that is grieving, a community that is grieving, over a 14-year-old that was shot.”

The sequence of events that led to Carmack-Belton’s tragic end began at the gas station, located in northeast Columbia, not far from Joseph Keels Elementary School. Sheriff Lott labeled the alleged circumstances of the case as “very disturbing.”

The sheriff stated that the incident transpired around 8 p.m. on Sunday when Carmack-Belton was suspected of shoplifting by the store owners. However, Sheriff Lott clarified that there’s no evidence to suggest the young boy shoplifted.

Lott further stated, “We have no evidence that he stole anything, whatsoever,” highlighting how the teenager initially took four water bottles from a cooler but then returned them.

The incident escalated with an argument inside the store, which resulted in Carmack-Belton fleeing. According to the sheriff, both Chow and his son pursued the boy, with Chow armed with a firearm. The chase led them toward the nearby Springtree Apartments.

As per Lott’s narration, Carmack-Belton stumbled and fell during the pursuit but quickly regained his footing. At this point, Chow allegedly shot the young boy in the back.

The sheriff stated that it was believed that Carmack-Belton was armed during the incident as a gun was found near his body.

Even though it was believed Carmack-Belton might have shoplifted, Sheriff Lott condemned the excessive reaction, saying, “Even if he had done that, that’s not something you shoot anybody over, much less a 14-year-old. You just don’t do that.”

Coroner Rutherford confirmed the gunshot hit Carmack-Belton’s right lower back, causing extensive hemorrhaging and severe damage to the teen’s heart. She further confirmed that the nature of the injuries aligns with someone who was fleeing their attacker.

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

Sheriff Lott described how his deputies thoroughly investigated multiple facets of the case between Sunday night and Monday afternoon.

“We had to talk to the witnesses, get statements,” Lott said. “We had to talk to the coroner to tell us exactly where this young man was shot. If he had been shot in the front (of his body) and he was armed with a gun it would be a different story. But the fact he was shot in the back, we had to wait on that (from the coroner).

“We had to look at the whole case, not part of it. The fact that the young man allegedly had a gun on him, did he point it at (Chow)? Did he threaten (the owners) with it? If he had done any of that, then this shooting may have been justified. That’s what we had to determine.”