Texas grand jury declines to charge man who fatally shot restaurant robber last year

A texas grand jury has declined to bring charges against a Houston restaurant customer who fatally shot a robber almost a year ago. The failed heist and fatal shooting were caught on surveillance video that immediately went viral and drew national attention.

Citing a news release from the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, Fox News said the grand jury decided Wednesday to not charge the man who fatally shot 30-year-old Eric Eugene Washington in last January.

What’s the background?

Houston police told KHOU in the station’s original story that an armed man in a mask entered Ranchito Taqueria on South Gessner near Bellaire Boulevard just before 11:30 p.m. Jan. 5, 2023, and demanded money and wallets from customers.

Surveillance video shows the crook going from table to table and taking cash. Soon one of the customers drew a gun and fired at the robber, who was walking past him.

KHOU said in its broadcast that it froze the surveillance video before shots were fired but that the full video shows the robber being shot multiple times. KPRC-TV in its video report said nine shots were fired.

Customer who shot robber returned stolen money

What’s more, police told KPRC that the customer who shot the robber retrieved the stolen money from the robber’s pocket and returned the money to other patrons.

In fact, KPRC said the customer could be heard on surveillance video saying, “Come get your money.”

KPRC added that video showed the customer discovering the robber’s gun was fake and throwing it against a wall in anger. Investigators told KHOU the robber’s gun was a plastic pistol.

Finally, the customer walked to the door, dumped a beverage on the robber lying on the floor, and walked out, KPRC said.

Those inside the restaurant departed before police arrived, KHOU said, adding that there were no reported injuries among customers or restaurant staff.

Some demanded charges against the “vigilante” customer who pulled the trigger, KHOU-TV reported at the time. But the restaurant’s owner and employees called the customer a hero, according to another KHOU story. The “hero” sentiment was reflected over and over again in numerous comments under a social media post at the time from Houston police.

The 46-year-old customer was never arrested, charged, or named.

What do we know about the robber?

KHOU, citing court records, said it wasn’t Washington’s first robbery:

In 2013, he and others were charged with capital murder after a man was killed during an armed robbery, according to prosecutors. The charge was later changed to aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon, and Washington was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

It’s unclear exactly when he was released, but the most recent time he was arrested was Dec. 16 [2022] when authorities said he pushed his girlfriend to the ground and scratched her. Washington was charged with misdemeanor family violence and was released on a personal recognizance bond.

Washington’s mother said last year that the customer who pulled the trigger multiple times “abused” her son in that moment, KRIV-TV reported.

“I don’t hate him. I can’t hate him,” Corine Goodman told the station. “But I want to know why didn’t you stop? If you had to kill him, I can deal with that. I can come to grips with that. He did something wrong. I understand that. But for him to be shot four times in the back leaving, and when he falls down, he shoots him four more times? You abused him. He was dead already. And that hurt. That hurts.”

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