A teenager suspected of shoplifting at Walmart was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer in Conroe, Texas, today.
The incident began at the Conroe Walmart when store security officers saw the teenager, 19-year-old Russell Rios, stealing iPhone cases. The security officers gave chase to the youngster but needed help. Off-duty police Sgt. Jason Blackwelder saw the security officers struggling and asked if they needed assistance. When the store employees said they did, Blackwelder began chasing Rios.
Blackwelder followed Rios as he headed southwest from the store into nearby woods. Once Blackwelder caught Rios, the two began to fight.
“Once in the woods, the suspect and the officer became engaged in a very intense struggle, and at one point the officer was being choked by the suspect … to the extent that he thought he was going to lose consciousness,” said Sgt. Dorcy Riddle.
That is when Blackwelder reached for his gun and shot Rios —ultimately killing him. Blackwelder was taken to a nearby hospital and treated for minor injuries.
Rios’ family did not speak extensively to media while mourning the death of their son, but they did question whether Blackwelder’s use of deadly force was necessary.
“There was no point to kill him," said Aldair Ortega, one of Rios’ friends. "There could have been a warning shot. There could have been another way of protecting."
Family members say Rios graduated high school two years ago, got a job and seemed happy with his life. He was set to attend Lone Star College this fall.
Per protocol, Blackwelder has been placed on administrative leave until the investigation concludes.