Gas station owner charged with killing South Carolina teen to remain in jail for now

Tribune Content Agency

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina convenience store owner charged with murder in the shooting death of a 14-year-old over Memorial Day weekend will remain in jail at least until bond is set at a later date, a magistrate judge said Tuesday.

Rick Chow, 58, is accused of fatally shooting Columbia teenager Cyrus Carmack-Belton in the back after an apparent argument Sunday night between the two inside Chow’s store on Parklane Road in Columbia, according to Richland County officials.

On Tuesday, Chow appeared before a magistrate inside the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center, where he is being held on the murder charge. Bond will be set at a later date by a circuit court judge. Chow was represented at the hearing by Columbia attorney James Snell. Both Chow and his lawyer declined to speak at the magistrate’s hearing.

Columbia attorney Todd Rutherford’s firm is representing the victim’s family. A representative from Rutherford’s firm, as well as members of Carmack-Belton’s family, also declined to speak at Tuesday’s hearing.

Shortly after the hearing, Rutherford posted a photo of Carmack-Belton on social media.

“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 to caption the photo. “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.”

The caption went on: “Words can’t describe the pain I feel having known this family for decades. I’m asking that our community continue to wrap their arms around this family as they’ve joined the club that no Black family ever wants to be a part of.”

Around 8 p.m. Sunday, Carmack-Belton went in Chow’s convenience store, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said at a news conference Monday, and the owners suspected him of shoplifting. However, Lott said the 14-year-old did not shoplift.

“We have no evidence that he stole anything, whatsoever,” Lott has said.

The sheriff said the teen at one point removed four water bottles from a cooler but put them back. An argument started inside the store, the sheriff said, and the 14-year-old took off running from the store.

Chow and his son chased after the teen, Lott said. Chow was armed with a pistol, the sheriff said. The chase was toward the nearby Springtree Apartments off Springtree Drive.

Lott said that, during the chase, the victim fell down and got back up. At that point, Chow shot Carmack-Belton in the back, Lott said.

“Even if (Carmack-Belton) 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 had done that, that’s not something you shoot anybody over, much less a 14-year-old,” Lott said. “You just don’t do that.”

Richland County Coroner Naida Rutherford said Carmack-Belton died from a single gunshot wound to his right lower back. She said the gunshot wound caused hemorrhaging, as well as significant damage to the teen’s heart.

The coroner said the teen’s injuries are consistent with someone who was running away from his assailants.

“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.”

Chow has owned the store at 7441 Parklane Road since at least 2012, when his LLC Grene Investments SP purchased the property from Sam’s Mart, according to county property records.

The State has requested information from the Richland County Sheriff’s Department about prior incidents at the store. Previous news coverage shows there was an armed robbery at the store in 2014, and the Sheriff’s Department reported a robbery in December 2021.

The store was vandalized Monday night, with the name Cyrus spray painted multiple times on the side of the building.

Beyond numerous traffic violations, Chow had not previously been charged with any crimes in Richland County, according to court records.

Residents who live nearby the Shell station gathered Tuesday near a memorial set up where Carmack-Belton was shot. Moms Demand Action member Lolita Frazier was among the mourners. Frazier said neighborhood children often went to Chow’s convenience store for snacks after school and on weekends and that the kids had a good relationship with Chow’s wife, who also often worked at the store. Frazier herself was a frequent customer of the store, she added.

Frazier, whose son died in a Newport News, Virginia, shooting in 2016, said events like this are triggering, particularly for Black families whose loved ones have been killed in shootings.

“This morning, a mother is mourning,” she said.