It all started here in a Walmart parking lot. A suspected shoplifter was chased into the woods by an off-duty police officer. Only one of them would walk back out, and now that officer is facing criminal charges.
"I'm his mom," said Jacqueline Rios, mother of the shoplifting suspect who was killed. "I'll miss him for all my life."
Jacqueline and her family have mixed feelings.
"I would prefer to have my son alive," said Juan Cuyon, the teen's stepfather.
The police officer who shot and killed their son, Russell Rios, 19, has been indicted for manslaughter. The news opens a wound that hasn't healed yet, but also, provides some relief.
"We feel a little bit better about it, knowing that something is finally being done," said Tania Mora, Rios' sister.
Conroe Police Sergeant Jason Blackwelder was indicted by a grand jury on charges of manslaughter, tampering, and making a false report. According to police, Blackwelder chased Russell Rios, who was suspected of shoplifting at a Walmart store, into some trees where the two scuffled. Blackwelder, who was off-duty, originally told officers he shot Rios while Rios was choking him.
Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon said, "The grand jury, in looking at the evidence presented to them, felt that the officer's conduct when Mr. Rios was shot was criminal, and that the story told or the officer's version of events was fabricated."
Rios family attorney Ryan MacLeod explained, "We had a second autopsy done, an independent autopsy done, where we found Russell was shot in the head in the base of his skull."
With the indictment, Blackwelder will be required to turn himself in and face trial. For Rios' family, it's a small step toward justice.
"It gives us a little bit of relief, but the pain doesn't go away," Cuyon said.
We spoke on the phone with Blackwelder's attorney. He says his client stands by his original statements to officers. Blackwelder has been suspended without pay, pending the outcome of the case.
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