A man shot and wounded two cheerleaders in a Texas supermarket parking lot after one of them said she mistakenly got into his car thinking it was her own — the latest in a string of recent U.S. shootings apparently sparked by someone showing up at the wrong place.
The shooting in Elgin, east of Austin, happened early Tuesday in a grocery store parking lot that serves as a carpool pickup spot for members of the Woodlands Elite Cheer Company, team owner Lynne Shearer said.
Heather Roth, one of four team members transferring rides in the lot after practice, said she got out of her friend’s car and into a car she thought was hers, but there was a stranger in the passenger seat, KTRK-TV reported. She said she panicked and got back into her friend’s car, but the man got out of his vehicle and approached. She said she tried to apologize through her friend’s car window, but the man threw up his hands, pulled out a gun and opened fire.
Roth was grazed by a bullet and was treated at the scene, police said. Her teammate Payton Washington, 18, was shot in the leg and back.
“Payton opens the door, and she starts throwing up blood,” Roth said.
Washington was flown to a hospital in critical condition. Doctors had to remove part of Washington’s spleen, KTRK-TV reported.
Police arrested a suspect, 25-year-old Pedro Tello Rodriguez Jr., who is charged with engaging in deadly conduct, a third-degree felony. Online court records do not list an attorney for him.
According to a probable cause affidavit that police released Wednesday, a store manager said he witnessed the shooting and officers tracked down Rodriguez using parking lot surveillance video that captured his license plate number. The affidavit didn’t indicate whether the footage captured the shooting or what preceded it.
Shearer said Washington, a high school senior from Round Rock, north of Austin, is one of her team’s stars and was born with only one lung.
“She’s really a huge face in the all-star cheerleading world,” Shearer said. “She’s a mentor and role model to so many kids in this industry. She’s an amazing athlete, amazing kid, so everybody knows her and everybody’s praying for her.”
Washington has committed to competing for Baylor University’s acrobatics and tumbling team next year, and her and her Woodlands teammates were set to compete at the The Cheerleading Worlds in Orlando, Florida, this weekend. Shearer said the team will now be “competing for her.”
The shooting comes days after two high-profile shootings that occurred after victims went to mistaken addresses. In one case, a Black teen was shot and wounded after going to the wrong Kansas City, Missouri, home to pick up his younger brothers. In the other, a woman looking for a friend’s house in upstate New York was shot and killed after the car she was riding in mistakenly went to the wrong address.