MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Texas -- A grand jury in Montgomery County has indicted a Conroe police officer who shot and killed a teenager accused of shoplifting a couple of iPhone cases, and the dead teenager’s grieving family is relieved.
“Sometimes it feels a little bit relief, knowing about this,” says Juan Cuyun, the dead teenager’s father. “But there is no way to go back to normal. It’s hard. It’s hard. We miss him too much.”
Jason Blackwelder was off duty when Russell Rios, 19, allegedly stole the merchandise and ran from security guards at a Walmart store last July 31. Blackwelder grabbed his gun out his car, prosecutors say, and joined the chase.
Rios ran into a wooded field near the store. A fight apparently erupted in the woods, prosecutors say, but the officer’s account of the incident was flawed.
Blackwelder claimed the teenager grabbed him from behind in a chokehold and nearly rendered him unconscious, so he fired his pistol and killed the accused shoplifter, but the district attorney says Rios was shot in the back of the head.
“If you’re being choked from behind and you shoot somebody with a gun over your head or over your shoulder, the assumption would be that the wound would be in front,” says Brett Ligon, the district attorney of Montgomery County.
The officer has been indicted for manslaughter and two lesser charges that he lied to investigators probing the incident. If he’s convicted, he faces anything from probation to 23 years in prison.
The district attorney says the officer has been indefinitely suspended from his job with the Conroe Police Department. Although he still has the right to a civil service appeal, he’s essentially been fired.
Cuyun, who still calls his son “the star of our family,” remembers his son as a conscientious young man who was trying to learn how to tie a necktie.
“Try to think on our situation,” Cuyun says. “Just think that my son could’ve been your son.”
“We are human beings,” he says. “Nobody deserves to die the way our son died.”