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‘Payton opens the door, and she starts throwing up blood’: Suspect identified after Texas cheerleaders shot in ‘horrific’ supermarket parking lot incident

Pedro Tello Rodriguez Jr., Payton Washington

Pedro Tello Rodriguez Jr. (Elgin Police Department), Payton Washington (Woodlands Elite Generals/GoFundMe)

Texas cops arrested a man suspected of opening fire on Texas cheerleaders after one of the girls reportedly entered the wrong vehicle after practice, believing the car was her own.

The Elgin Police Department announced the arrest of 25-year-old Pedro Tello Rodriguez Jr. on Tuesday in the shooting of Payton Washington and Heather Roth in the parking lot of an H-E-B supermarket.

Cops said they were dispatched to scene after midnight after receiving a call about shots fired.

“Information suggests that an altercation occurred in the parking lot of HEB, and multiple shots were fired into a vehicle. Two occupants of the vehicle were struck by gun fire. One victim was treated and released on scene. The other sustained serious injuries and was transported to the hospital by helicopter, where they remain in critical condition,” the police department said.

Authorities said that Rodriguez was identified as the suspect and now faces a charge of deadly conduct, a third-degree felony, for allegedly “recklessly engag[ing] in conduct that places another in imminent danger of serious bodily injury.”

The deadly conduct offense is committed, Texas law says, when a person “knowingly discharges a firearm at or in the direction of (1) one or more individuals; or (2) a habitation, building, or vehicle and is reckless as to whether the habitation, building, or vehicle is occupied.”

A third-degree felony is punishable by two to 10 years in prison.

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“This is still an active investigation,” cops noted. “Additional or enhanced charges may be filed.”

The cheerleaders had used the H-E-B lot in Elgin to carpool, KTRK reported. Heather Roth said that the shooting occurred after she got into a vehicle that Rodriguez was sitting in as a passenger. She reportedly said she initially and mistakenly believed it was her own car. When she tried to apologize to Rodriguez, he allegedly responded with gunfire.

“4 of our girls were involved in a horrific incident on their way home after practice last night. We are asking for your prayers for Payton, Keyona, Heather & Genesis. Also Big prayers for Payton as she recovers please,” Woodlands Elite Cheer Co. posted on Facebook after the shooting. “Please keep these girls and our WE cheer family in your thoughts and prayers. WE appreciate our cheer community.”

The cheer organization also started a GoFundMe to help with Payton Washington’s medical expenses.

“Three of our Generals and one Red Angel were viciously shot at last night in a senseless and random act of violence. Payton was shot twice and badly injured,” the GoFundMe campaign said. “She is stable in the ICU and will have a long road to recovery. Please consider helping to ease the financial burden to this family of their medical expenses. We ask that you keep our athletes in your prayers at this devastating time.”

As of Wednesday morning, more than $62,000 in funds were donated.

Citing an Instagram Live post, KTRK reported that Washington sustained organ damage after being shot in the leg and back; her spleen was removed. Roth was reportedly grazed by a bullet.

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“Payton opens the door, and she starts throwing up blood,” Roth reportedly recalled the aftermath of the shooting.

Payton Washington, a Baylor University commit, is a beloved member of the incoming freshman class, Acrobatic and Tumbling team coach Felicia Mulkey said on Twitter.

Washington is “really a huge face in the all-star cheerleading world,” said Woodlands Elite Cheer Co. owner Lynne Shearer, according to KHOU. Shearer also called Washington an “icon” in the “world of all-star cheerleader.”

“[L]iterally all around the country she has so many little kids look up to her,” she added, Fox 7 reported.

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.