HOUSTON — The Houston Police Department said an attorney who claimed to be representing the customer who shot and killed a man who robbed a southwest Houston restaurant last week reached out to them and said his client is ready to talk.
The incident happened just before 11:30 p.m. Thursday at Ranchito Taqueria on S. Gessner near Bellaire Boulevard.
HPD had been looking for the man who was seen on surveillance video shooting the robber. The man is not charged with a crime, but police said they wanted to talk to him to find out his side of the story.
Police said an armed man in a mask entered the restaurant and demanded money and wallets from the customers. As he was leaving, one of the customers pulled out a gun and shot the suspect several times.
After the shooting, that same customer collected the stolen money from the robber and returned it to the other patrons, police said.
According to authorities, the rest of the people in the restaurant left the scene before the police got there.
Police later said the robber didn't have a real gun.
“The robbery suspect ... came into the store and was wearing masks and gloves,” HPD Lt. Wilkens said. “He had a plastic pistol, possibly an aero soft or possibly a little BB pistol.”
No one else in the restaurant was injured.
Was the shooting justified?
KHOU Legal Analyst Carmen Roe said the shooting appears to be in self-defense but understands why police still want to talk to the shooter.
“One of the reasons that law enforcement is seeking out this individual is to find out whether he was in fear for his life or the lives of the people around him because that’s absolutely essential to a self-defense claim under the law," Roe said. “If you’re justified in shooting the first bullet, you’re justified in continuing to shoot until the deadly threat is no longer there."
Nathan Beedle works with the Harris County District Attorney's Office. He said Texas law outlines specific instances pertaining to robbery by threat, or aggravated robbery, where deadly force is presumed justified.
"I can point you exactly where it is in the law: 9.31 and 9.32 of the penal code," Beedle said. "Whether someone uses deadly force in the situation, that is presumed to be correct under Texas law."
Roe said it didn't matter if the gun used in the robbery was fake because the threat was real.
“Everybody in that restaurant clearly believed it was a real gun," she said.
The customer who shot the suspect left the restaurant after the shooting. Many have asked if he was legally obligated to stay until the police arrived.
“Staying there to answer questions is important. It’s something that, as a lawyer, I would have advised him to have done, but at the same time, you have no obligation to stay on the scene of a situation like that," Roe said.
The restaurant owner and employees are calling the customer a hero.
Police are also hoping to question any customers who were at the restaurant that night. Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call Houston police.