Man arrested after 2 Woodlands Elite cheerleaders were shot outside HEB near Austin, police say

Shannon Ryan Image
Wednesday, April 19, 2023
Cheerleader from Montgomery Co. cheer company shot, critically injured
Police say Payton Washington was one of two Woodlands Elite cheerleaders hit when someone opened fire near a grocery store outside Austin. One man is in custody.

ELGIN, Texas (KTRK) -- Two members of an elite competitive cheerleading team in Oak Ridge were shot Tuesday morning after one of the athletes reportedly mistakenly tried to get into the wrong car after practice.

The four young women drove from the Round Rock area to Woodlands Elite Cheer Company in Oak Ridge three times each week for practice. They used the Elgin H-E-B as a carpool lot for the approximately 360-mile round-trip.

Just after midnight, cheerleader Heather Roth said she got out of her friend's car and opened the door to a vehicle she believed to be her own in the H-E-B parking lot.

Roth said there was a man sitting in the passenger seat, so she initially panicked, thinking a stranger was inside her car, and got back into her friend's vehicle.

When she noticed the man approach their vehicle, she said she rolled down the window to apologize, telling him she thought it was her car. Roth said the man threw up his hands, pulled out a gun, and started shooting. ABC13 has verified the testimony with Bastrop County sources.

An affidavit states that the H-E-B manager witnessed the gunman "shoot at the vehicle multiple times" before fleeing the area.

According to officers, Roth suffered a graze wound and was treated and released on the scene, but her teammate, Payton Washington, was shot in the leg and the back. Washington was flown to a nearby hospital in critical condition.

"Payton opens the door, and she starts throwing up blood," Roth said.

In an Instagram live Tuesday evening, a coach said Washington, an incoming athlete for Baylor's Acrobatic and Tumbling team, suffered damage to multiple organs and had her spleen removed. She is expected to undergo additional surgeries throughout the week.

The Round Rock ISD senior had already been competing with one lung, according to Woodlands Elite Cheer Company co-owner Lynne Shearer.

"She's a fighter. She's very strong," Shearer told ABC13.

A spokesperson for Baylor University said the team's head coach, Felecia Mulkey, visited her in the hospital Tuesday.

Mulkey sent Eyewitness News the following statement regarding the shooting:

"Payton is a strong young lady; if you know her, you know that about her. I have no doubt she's going to get through this. She's an amazing athlete but a better human, and that's why she's a part of our Baylor family. My prayers are with Payton and her teammates, that were involved in last night's tragic event. I know mental wounds also leave scars. We want to lift up the athletes and their families during this difficult time. We love Payton, and we wish her well as she recovers."

This weekend, the athletes were set to compete at Cheerleading Worlds in Orlando together.

"It's the only title (Washington) hasn't won in All-Star Cheer. She's literally won everything there is to win in this sport except for a world title, and this was her last chance to do that," Shearer said. "Payton is the ultimate competitor. She would not want her team not to go and not be at this championship and not compete. So we will be there, and we will compete."

Elgin police arrested the alleged gunman, 25-year-old Pedro Tello Rodriguez Jr., Tuesday. He is charged with deadly conduct, though sources told ABC13 additional charges are likely.

Police said they obtained surveillance footage of the parking lot that captured the moment shots were fired but have not released the video to the public.

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