The man who shot and killed a robbery suspect at a taqueria in Houston last week before returning the stolen money to other patrons will be referred to a grand jury, according to authorities.
Houston police said the 46-year-old armed customer, who has not been publicly identified, was questioned by homicide detectives in the presence of his attorney on Monday.
“After consulting with members of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, it was determined the shooting will be referred to a grand jury,” the Houston Police Department said in a statement Monday. “Since the male is not arrested or charged, his identity is not being released at this time.”
The incident happened inside The Ranchito #4 at around 11:30 p.m. Thursday. Witnesses told officers that a masked African American man wearing all black clothing, a black ski mask, and black gloves walked into the restaurant, waving what appeared to be a firearm at customers while demanding their money, according to Houston police.
CAUGHT ON VIDEO: A customer at a taqueria shot and killed a robber at the restaurant on S. Gessner in southwest Houston, police said.
— KHOU 11 News Houston (@KHOU) January 6, 2023
While the alleged robber, now identified by police as 30-year-old Eric Eugene Washington, was walking around the restaurant taking money from patrons, one customer sitting in a booth with another person quickly stood up as soon as Washington passed by and pulled out a gun, as seen in surveillance video.
The armed patron shot Washington, who collapsed on the ground. The 46-year-old customer continued to fire as he walked up to Washington, took his gun, and then fired one more round toward Washington. At least nine shots could be heard in the footage.
As reported by FOX 26 Houston, the security video shows the 46-year-old patron apparently realizing the alleged robber’s firearm was fake, as he throws it against the wall. Police said the man collected the stolen money, which he then returned to the others. He and other patrons then left the scene.
Responding officers found the robbery suspect shot multiple times, and paramedics pronounced him dead, according to authorities. No one else was reported to be injured in the incident.
UPDATE: Surveillance photos of the male (and his vehicle) wanted for questioning in this fatal shooting of a robbery suspect last night (Jan. 5).
Know the man’s ID? Call HPD Homicide 713-308-3600. He is not charged at this time.
— Houston Police (@houstonpolice) January 6, 2023
Houston police Lt. R. Wilkins said Washington was brandishing “a plastic pistol possibly an aero soft or possibly a little BB pistol,” according to KHOU 11. Still, Pedro Lopez, the owner of the restaurant, praised the armed patron as a “hero,” according to an English translation provided by the news outlet.
The 46-year-old’s attorney released a statement to ABC 13 Eyewitness News saying they are confident the grand jury will conclude the shooting was justified under Texas law.
“In fear of his life and his friend’s life my client acted to protect everyone in the restaurant,” the statement said. “In Texas, a shooting is justified in self-defense, defense of others and in defense of property. The customer has met with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office and Investigators with HPD homicide. He fully intends to continue cooperating with the ongoing investigation.”