Clyburn issues statement on killing of 14-year-old outside SC convenience store

Clyburn calls the shooting death of a 14-year-old boy who investigators say the store owner suspected of shoplifting a tragedy that should never have happened.
Published: May. 31, 2023 at 10:21 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS/WCSC) - South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn has issued a statement on the shooting death of a 14-year-old South Carolina teen.

The shooting happened at around 8 a.m. Sunday on Parklane Road in Richland County, deputies said. The victim was identified as Cyrus Carmack-Belton, WIS-TV reported.

In a statement released Tuesday night, Clyburn, a Democrat who represents South Carolina’s 6th Congressional District, called the shooting a tragedy that should have never happened:”

I’m horrified and deeply saddened by the senseless murder of 14-year-old Cyrus Carmack-Belton in Columbia this weekend. His family and loved ones should be celebrating his recent eighth-grade graduation from Summit Parkway Middle School. Instead, they are mourning this unimaginable loss. My prayers are with them and the entire community during this devastating time.

This tragedy should have never happened. The criminalization of Black men and boys and the historic trend of painting them as aggressors have time and again led to deadly and heartbreaking circumstances. Cyrus Carmack-Belton has since been declared innocent, but his supposed crime of shoplifting a bottle of water should not have cost him his life. I pray justice is swift.

Investigators with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department charged the owner of the Shell gas station, Rick Chow, 58, with murder in the shooting. They say Chow suspected Carmack-Belton of shoplifting.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said at a Monday news conference, however, that there was no evidence that Carmack-Belton stole anything.

“You don’t shoot somebody in the back who’s not a threat to you,” Lott said at the news conference. “That’s the same standard that we do, the same standard that cops have to live by. You have to be defending someone’s life or your life, and there has to be an immediate danger to you at that point.”

Lott said deputies reviewed surveillance footage in their investigation.

“Even if he had shoplifted four bottles of water, which is what he initially took out of the cooler and then he put them back, even if he’d done that, that’s not something you shoot anybody over, much less a 14-year-old, but you just don’t do that,” Lott said.

At one point, there was a verbal confrontation inside the store, but no indication that things turned physical, deputies say. Lott said Chow and his son chased Carmack-Belton down the street and that at one point, the teenager fell, but got back up and ran.

Deputies say Chow’s son told his father that Carmack-Belton was armed and deputies say they recovered a gun believed to belong to the victim near his body.

But deputies said there is no evidence the victim pointed it at or threatened Chow.

Lott said that Carmack-Belton was running away when he was shot.

Richland County Coroner Naida Rutherford said he had one gunshot wound to the right lower back.