Elgin, TX – Two Texas cheerleaders were shot outside a grocery store on Monday night after one of the girls mistakenly tried to get into the wrong vehicle.
The incident occurred on at approximately 12:15 a.m. on April 18 at the H-E-B grocery store parking lot located at 1080 East U.S. Highway 290, KXAN reported.
Cheerleaders Heather Roth and Payton Washington had been attending practice at their cheer gym in Houston and were heading back home to Austin with friends when they stopped at the grocery store to get Roth’s vehicle, Today reported.
Payton Washington’s father, Kelan Washington, said the parking lot is the “designated carpool site” for the traveling athletes.
Roth, 21, said she walked over to a vehicle she believed was hers, but quickly realized she’d made a mistake, KPRC reported.
“I just saw a black figure in the passenger seat, and I just shut the door as fast as I could,” Roth recalled.
She said she ran back to her friends, located her own vehicle, and got inside, KPRC reported.
Roth said she then saw a man stepping out of the car she’d mistakenly tried to get into.
“I see the guy get out of the passenger door. And I rolled my window down, and I was trying to apologize to him… and my window was halfway down, and he just threw his hands up and he pulled out a gun, and then he just started shooting at all of us,” the teen told KPRC.
The girls said the suspect did not say anything to them before he opened fire, according to Today.
Heather Roth had got into the wrong car, but the man sitting in there then started shooting at the girls in the H-E-B parking lot in Elgin, Texas pic.twitter.com/MvrnwtNF5H
— News News News (@NewsNew97351204) April 19, 2023
Roth was grazed in the leg by one of the bullets and was treated and released at the scene, NBC News reported.
Payton Washington was hit in the back and the leg and was airlifted to Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas in Austin in critical condition, according to Elgin police.
Kelan Washington said his 18-year-old daughter, who was born with only one lung, is “as tough as they come,” NBC News reported.
He said doctors removed Payton Washington’s spleen and that she is in stable condition in the intensive care unit.
She has another surgery pending.
Prayers for Payton Washington, Stony Point athlete, shot twice and in intensive care from senseless gun violence. GoFundMe for her medical expenses: https://t.co/s9b3nhmSNH@StonyPointHS @roundrockisd @varsity_news @RRLeaderSports @FanstandATX @FlxAtx @var_austin pic.twitter.com/wQpMZwMVk4
— Henry Huey (@HenryHueyPhoto) April 20, 2023
Her teammates have been rallying around her.
“They’re family. Those girls are Payton’s sisters basically in spirit and in team camaraderie,” Kelan Washington told Today. “Of course, they’re very concerned about their sister, they’re very concerned about their leader. Payton was the leader of this cheer squad in Houston.”
Police worked through the night and were able to identify and track down the alleged gunman, KPRC reported.
He has been identified as 25-year-old Pedro Tello Rodriguez.
Rodriguez was arrested on a felony charge of deadly conduct, but police said additional charges may be forthcoming, KPRC reported.
Payton Washington, a Stony Point High School varsity cheerleader and member of Woodland’s Elite Cheer Co., recently accepted an offer to join the athletic and tumbling team at Baylor University this fall, KPRC reported.
Please lift incoming freshman, Payton Washington, and her family up in prayer as she recovers from last night’s tragic event. We love you @we_payton and we look forward to seeing you soon! #BaylorFamily pic.twitter.com/2MzsbepOpY
— Fee Mulkey (@BaylorAcroCoach) April 18, 2023
Cheer company owner Lienee Shearer said the teen is a stand-out athlete.
“She’s won every title there is to win in all-star cheerleading. She’s literally a role model for kids in this industry. Throughout the country, everybody knows her,” Shearer told KPRC. “She’s literally one of the very best that’s ever done this sport.”
A fundraising campaign established to help Payton Washington and her family during her recovery has raised more than $126,000 so far.