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2 cheerleaders were shot in a Texas supermarket parking lot after one opened the door to the wrong vehicle. A suspect is under arrest


By Alisha Ebrahimji and Tina Burnside, CNN

Two teenage cheerleaders were shot after one said she mistook the suspect’s vehicle for her own in a supermarket parking lot near Texas’ capital — one of at least four incidents this week in which young people who’d made an apparent mistake were met with gunfire.

Pedro Tello Rodriguez Jr., 25, who authorities say shot the teens, was arrested early Tuesday, the Elgin Police Department said. He is being held on a $500,000 bond and accused of deadly conduct with a firearm, a third-degree felony, a probable cause document states. It was not immediately clear whether he has an attorney.

Officers responding just after midnight Tuesday to an H-E-B supermarket parking lot found two people shot in a vehicle, police said, citing preliminary reports. One with serious injuries was rushed by helicopter to a hospital, while the other was treated at the scene, the release said.

The latter girl had gotten out of a friend’s car and opened the door to a vehicle she thought was hers, only to find a man sitting in the passenger seat, she said during a livestreamed prayer vigil Tuesday night at her cheer team’s gym, CNN affiliate KTRK reported. Heather Roth was trying to apologize to the man when he got out of the passenger door, she said.

“He just threw his hands up, and then he pulled out a gun and he just started shooting at all of us,” she said, fighting tears.

Roth, fellow top-flight cheerleader Payton Washington and two others fled immediately in their car, said Lynne Shearer, managing partner of the Woodlands Elite Cheer Company, where the girls train.

“As soon as they saw the gun, they said go and they drove and they went about two miles down the road,” she told CNN. “And that’s when they realized that Payton was seriously hurt and they pulled over once they realized that guy wasn’t following them because Payton was … throwing up blood at that point. So, they … that’s when they called 911.”

Washington — who was born with only one lung and “has surpassed many obstacles to rise to the very top of her sport,” Shearer said — was shot twice and was stable in the ICU, according to a GoFundMe account started Wednesday by her cheerleading team, the Woodlands Elite Generals. She was “doing well” Wednesday after suffering a ruptured spleen, which was removed, and damage to her pancreas and diaphragm, Shearer said.

“Her stomach is not closed up yet, and they are keeping her on heavy antibiotics for at least 48 hours to hopefully fight off infection,” Shearer said. “Once they are sure there is no infection, they will go back in and finish up any issues and close her up.”

Washington should make a full recovery and has been FaceTiming with her friends, Shearer said. Roth was struck by a bullet and treated and released at the scene, she said.

Tuesday’s shooting was yet another case this week in which young people were shot after apparently ending up at the wrong place. They include a 6-year-old and her dad wounded over a reportedly errant basketball in North Carolina, a 16-year-old struck in the head after ringing the wrong doorbell in Kansas City and a 20-year-old who turned into the wrong New York driveway.

The United States is the only nation with more civilian guns than people, with about 120 guns for every 100 Americans, according to the Small Arms Survey.

Wounded cheerleader ‘is a strong young lady’

Roth and Washington are from the Austin and Round Rock area and were on a thrice-weekly commute to a cheerleading gym in Oak Ridge North, a Houston suburb. Washington has been making the 300-mile round trip for eight years, Shearer said.

Roth is in college, while the other three girls in the vehicle are in high school. Washington is a senior who had committed to Baylor University‘s Acrobatics and Tumbling team.

“Payton is a strong young lady; if you know her, you know that about her,” Baylor head acrobatics and tumbling coach Felecia Mulkey told CNN. “I have no doubt she’s going to get through this.”

After visiting Washington on Tuesday, Mulkey said all things considered, she looked great and is making good progress — but acknowledged there’s still a long way to go on her path to recovery.

Washington is an “amazing athlete but a better human,” the coach said.

“I know mental wounds also leave scars,” she said. “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.”

Meantime, Shearer’s team is busy still trying to prepare for the World Championships this weekend in Orlando, in which Roth plans to compete, Shearer said.

Pistol found in car, police document shows

A supermarket manager witnessed the shooting incident, and police have surveillance footage from the parking lot that shows the license plate on the suspect’s car, police said, according to the probable cause affidavit.

When detectives arrived at Tello’s home, his brother told them he was asleep inside and worked at H-E-B, according to the affidavit.

“Elgin Detectives contacted Pedro Tello at the residence. Pedro Tello was still wearing the clothing that was observed by Elgin Detectives in the surveillance footage,” the affidavit states.

Detectives found a 9mm Mossberg pistol in the center console of a car used by the suspect, according to a search warrant inventory sheet. The search also yielded a 9mm round, spent casings and an empty ammunition magazine from the car or the suspect’s home, according to the document.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the person who Baylor’s head acrobatics and tumbling coach described visiting in the hospital. She was describing Payton Washington.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Rosa Flores, Ashley Killough, Ed Lavandera, Raja Razek and Steve Almasy contributed to this report.

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