Ranchito Taqueria #4, a small and non-descript eatery in Southwest Houston, found an unlikely spot at the top of news headlines recently after a security video clip that showed a customer shooting a robber went viral.
The video shows the suspect, identified as Eric Eugene Washington, 30, enter the taqueria and draw what appears to be a handgun. While pointing it at patrons, he traveled from table to table, taking money from customers.
Two customers took cover under their table at the start of the video, apparently in fear of Washington. As Washington walked back down an aisle, a seated customer, identified only as a 46-year-old male, pulled his own handgun and shot Washington. No one else was injured in the incident. The customer who shot Washington returned the stolen money to the other diners.
“When a person uses force during an armed robbery, they have a very heightened protection under the law,” explained Professor Sandra Guerra Thompson, Houston Law Center Professor, according to KTRK. “I know there are a lot of questions about the use of a gun because it wasn’t a real firearm, but that doesn’t really make a difference because it was used as a firearm and a person would reasonably believe that they were facing an immediate threat of deadly force.”
Houston police confirmed the gun Washington carried wasn’t real. HPD Lt. Wilkins told KHOU 11 that “the robbery suspect came into the store and was wearing masks and gloves. He had a plastic pistol, possibly an aero soft or possibly a little BB pistol.”
Records show Washington had a criminal history, and was currently on probation following a 15-year sentence for aggravated robbery in 2015. Originally charged with capital murder for a 2013 robbery that claimed the life of Hamid Waraich, 62, Washington received a plea and was paroled in 2021. He was also reportedly facing domestic assault charges after allegedly assaulting his girlfriend in December.
A lawyer who claims to represent the man who shot Washington reached out to HPD to facilitate communication following HPD’s requests for public aid in identifying the customer. HPD has reportedly met with the man, who will remain anonymous unless charges are filed, for questioning.
According to ABC News, the incident will be referred to a Grand Jury. A Grand Jury is tasked with review of all facts and evidence to determine whether charges should be filed and an individual indicted.