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2 Texas cheerleaders shot after getting into wrong car in parking lot

A man has been arrested after two Texas cheerleaders were shot, with one critically injured, after one of the athletes mistakenly got into t...

A man has been arrested after two Texas cheerleaders were shot, with one critically injured, after one of the athletes mistakenly got into the wrong vehicle, according to police and the owner of the gym the cheerleaders trained at.

Officers in Elgin, about 25 miles northeast of Austin, responded to reports of shots fired outside an an H-E-B supermarket at around 12:15 a.m. local time (1:15 a.m. ET) Tuesday, the Elgin Police Department said in a news release.

"Information suggests that an altercation occurred in the parking lot of H-E-B, and multiple shots were fired into a vehicle," police said. Two of the vehicle's occupants were struck by gunfire, with one victim sustaining serious injuries and transported by helicopter to a hospital, where they were listed in critical condition, police said.

A suspect identified as Pedro Tello Rodriguez Jr., 25, was taken into custody and charged with deadly conduct, a third-degree felony, police said.

The H-E-B grocery store at 1080 E US 290 in Elgin, Texas where two cheerleaders were shot on April 18, 2023.
The H-E-B store in Elgin, Texas where a shooting took place Tuesday night. Google

Lynn Shearer, owner of Woodlands Elite Cheer Co., told NBC affiliate KXAN, which is based in Austin, that the two people shot were cheerleaders who were on their way home from practice.

Shearer said the cheerleaders typically carpooled from the Austin area to her gym. On Monday night, she said at least four cheerleaders were on their way back to the Austin area and had to stop at an H-E-B, where some of the members had parked their cars.

One of the girls accidentally tried to get into the wrong car, Shearer said. That's when, she said, a "guy got out and they saw that he had a gun. And so they tried to speed off and he shot his gun, like five times or so into the car." Woodlands Elite Cheer Co. did not immediately respond to an overnight request for comment from NBC News. The Elgin Police Department also did not immediately respond to an overnight request from NBC News seeking to confirm these details.

According to ABC News, Heather Roth, a cheerleader with the Woodlands Elite Cheer Co., said in an Instagram Live post that she was the one who got out of her friend's car and opened the door of another vehicle she thought was her own, only to notice a man was in the passenger seat. She said she got out of the car and back into her friend's vehicle, the report said.

Roth reportedly said the man approached their vehicle and she rolled down a window to apologize. That's when the man started shooting, she said, according to ABC News. The Instagram Live post was no longer available early Wednesday morning, but Roth shared a number of posts that appeared to be related to the incident. Roth did not immediately respond to overnight request for comment.

Victim critically injured known as a 'role model'

Shearer identified the cheerleader who was critically injured in the shooting as Round Rock Independent School District cheerleader Payton Washington.

“She’s won every title there is to win in all-star cheerleading. She’s literally a role model for the kids in this industry throughout the country,” Shearer said. “Everybody knows her. She’s literally one of the very best that’s ever done this sport.”

Messages of support for Washington have poured in on social media in the wake of the shooting, with a prayer organized by the Woodlands Elite Cheer Co. held on Tuesday. Meanwhile, a GoFundMe page organized by the Woodlands Elite Generals to help raise money to cover her hospital costs had raised more than $60,800 as of early Wednesday morning.

The GoFundMe page said Washington was "stable in the ICU and will have a long road to recovery."

Shearer said the cheerleaders had "grown up" in her gym. "We’ve known them for years, some of them literally, since they were, you know, 8,10 years old,” Shearer said. “So they’re like our family.”

The shooting, she said "was unfortunate. These girls were just trying to get home."

As Washington faces a long road to recovery, Shearer said she and the Woodlands Elite team would be there to support her and others affected by the shooting every step of the way.

“Our goal right now is to take it one day at a time and be there for them,” Shearer said.

Shooting comes following 2 similar incidents

The shooting comes on the heels of two other eerily similar high-profile incidents in which the victims were allegedly shot after mistakenly approaching the wrong addresses.

Last week, 16-year-old Ralph Yarl was shot and seriously injured after mistakenly ringing the wrong doorbell in Kansas City while trying to pick up his siblings in an incident that sparked national outrage.

Just days later, Kaylin Gillis, 20, was fatally shot by a homeowner after the car she was riding in mistakenly turned into the wrong driveway in upstate New York.

The two incidents sparked a national conversation around gun violence and “stand your ground” laws, according to which a would-be shooter defending life or property does not have to retreat before taking violent action. Monday's overnight shooting is likely to further fuel the discussion.

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