Authorities in Houston, Texas say they’ve now spoken with the man who shot and killed a robber at a Houston taqueria last Thursday evening, and have not taken him into custody or arrested him. Instead, police say they’ll refer the results of their investigation to a grand jury, who will determine whether the armed patron should face any charges in connection with the incident.
While authorities haven’t released much information about the armed citizen, they have provided some details about the robber who was shot and killed; including the fact that he was a convicted violent felon.
Officials said Eric Eugene Washington, 30, walked into the taqueria in the 6800 block of South Gessner Road Thursday evening brandishing, what later was discovered to be, a plastic, either airsoft or BB gun.
Surveillance video showed Washington going table to table demanding money until an unidentified customer, 46, pulled out his own gun and shot the 30-year-old several times.
According to court documents, Washington previously was arrested back in December 2022 and charged with Assault of a Family Member. In fact, he was expected to show up in court on January 20.
Additionally, back in January 2015, the 30-year-old was also previously convicted of aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon.
It’s unclear how much time, if any, Washington spent behind bars for the robbery with a deadly weapon, but apparently it wasn’t long enough for him to learn his lesson. As for the armed citizen, it will be up to the grand jury to decide whether he should face any charges, but several attorneys who spoke with KHOU-TV in Houston say that based on the available evidence this looks like self-defense (and defense of others) to them.
KHOU Legal Analyst Carmen Roe said the shooting appears to be in self-defense but understands why police wanted 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 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.
No, in fact in a situation like that you might very well want to remove yourself as quickly as possible; not because you’ve committed a crime but because you don’t know if the robber has any accomplices who might also pose a threat. It wasn’t just the armed patron who left the restaurant, after all. Every customer inside did the same thing. There’s nothing particularly shady about the actions of the customer, particularly since he reached out to an attorney and volunteered himself to police questioning a short time later.
Defense attorney Nicole Deborde Hochglaube said that if the shooting is justified under Texas law, it doesn’t matter how many bullets were fired.
“My takeaway is the gentleman who discharged the weapon was acting lawfully and it was his right to defend himself and the patrons in that restaurant,” Hochglaube said. “Once you are entitled to use deadly force under the law, you’re entitled to use deadly force until the threat is over.”
Former prosecutor for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office Joanne Musick said she also sees the shooting as a matter of self-defense.
“This is a man defending himself and others in the restaurant. People are getting sick and tired of crime on the streets,” Musick said.
I’ll be surprised if the grand jury reaches a different conclusion, at least based the information released to the public to date. If there was strong evidence that the armed patron had committed a crime, he likely would have been charged after he spoke to police on Monday. We’ll be reporting on the grand jury’s decision, and hopefully the armed citizen won’t have to wait too long before his acts are officially deemed justified in the eyes of the law.