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Grand jury to review case of customer who fatally shot robber at Houston taco shop

Legal experts said the shooting likely falls under the state’s self-defense law, but some questions remain


Photo/YouTube via NBC News

By Ashley Silver

HOUSTON — The case of a customer accused of fatally shooting a Houston robber in self-defense at a local taco shop has been referred to a grand jury. However, police say the man has not been arrested and is not facing charges at this time.

According to KPRC 2 News, the incident occurred last week when a masked man, later identified as 30-year-old Eric Eugene Washington, entered The Ranchito restaurant in Houston with a gun, aimed it at patrons, and demanded their wallets and money.

When the robber walked by a customer sitting in one of the booths, surveillance video shows the man getting up from his seat, pulling a gun and fatally shooting the robber nine times. The man then returned the stolen items and money to the customers.

The weapon the robber used is now believed to be a “plastic gun.” Yet, legal analysts are not sure this makes the shooting unjustified.

“The fact that this perpetrator had a fake gun makes no difference,” KPRC 2 legal analyst Brian Wice said. “Everybody who was present that night, including the shooter, had no way of knowing. Once he fires that first shot, if his belief was reasonable, that belief continues until the threat has been totally dissipated.”

The customer’s attorney, Juan L. Guerra Jr., released the following statement:

“My client, who wishes to remain anonymous, was dining with a friend at El Ranchito Taqueria and as it has been seen on video a robbery suspect entered the restaurant, pointed a weapon at my client and the other customers demanding money. In fear of his life and his friend’s life, my client acted to protect everyone in the restaurant. In Texas, a shooting is justified in self-defense, defense of others and in defense of property. The customer has met with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office and investigators with HPD homicide. He fully intends to continue cooperating with the ongoing investigation. When the investigation is complete, this case will be presented to a grand jury. We are confident that a grand jury will conclude that the shooting was justified under Texas law. This event has been very traumatic, taking a human life is something he does not take lightly and will burden him for the rest of his life. For that reason, he wishes to remain anonymous. Due to the overwhelming coverage, we ask the media and the public to respect his privacy.”

Washington had a history with the law. He was out on bond at the time of the robbery for an assault of a family member, according to the report. In 2015, a jury sentenced Washington to 15 years in prison on a 2013 aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon charge. Prosecutors initially charged him with capital murder, but records show the jury instead convicted him of the lesser charge of aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon. He was paroled in early 2021.