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Monday, June 24, 2024 | Back issues
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Killed for Suspicion of Shoplifting, Mom Says

HOUSTON (CN) - An off-duty Texas policeman shot a teenager in the back of the head for suspicion of shoplifting, then lied about it, the late teen's mother claims in court.

Jacqueline Rios sued Conroe police Sgt. Jason Blackwelder in Federal Court, for the death of her son, Russell Rios.

Neither the city of Conroe nor its police department is a defendant in the lawsuit.

Jacqueline says her 19-year-old son was a good kid who attended college part-time and had just started work as a bank teller job on the day Blackwelder killed him.

Her son went to the Wal-Mart Super Store in Conroe on the evening of July 31. "While in the store, Wal-Mart employees accused Russell of shoplifting and chased him from the store," the complaint states.

Wal-Mart employees saw Blackwelder in the parking lot and asked him to help detain Russell, Jacqueline Rios says.

Blackwelder was off duty but "decided to assert police authority over the situation," Rios says in the lawsuit.

"Sergeant Blackwelder chased Russell down with his truck until Russell fled into the wooded area separating Wal-Mart and Lowe's," the complaint states. "At that point, Sergeant Blackwelder left his vehicle and followed Russell into the wooded area. Thereafter, Sergeant Blackwelder emerged from the wooded area and Russell was dead, shot in the back of his head.

"Immediately after the incident, the city issued a press release stating that Sergeant

Blackwelder chased Russell into the woods, where a physical struggle began and that during the struggle 'the suspect began choking the sergeant to the point where the sergeant feared he would lose consciousness. The sergeant, fearing for his life, then fired his weapon, striking the subject.'"

Impossible, Rios says: "In fact, Sergeant Blackwelder lied about the incident to investigators. In reality, Russell was shot in the back of the head and could not have been choking Sergeant Blackwelder when he killed him. Instead, what happened to Russell was an execution and a clear constitutional violation of the use of deadly force."

She claims that "even a rookie on the force could see that Russell was shot in the back of the head with no exit wound."

"On Sept. 27," a Montgomery County grand jury issued an indictment against Sergeant Blackwelder for manslaughter, tampering with evidence and making a false report to police," the complaint states.

Jacqueline Rios wants punitive damages for excessive force and civil rights violations.

She is represented by David Bernsen of Beaumont.

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