A lawyer for a customer who shot and killed a robber in a Houston taqueria last week said his actions were justified because he was ‘in fear of his life.’
Eric Eugene Washington, 30, died after being shot nine times – with one bullet hitting him execution-style in the head – by a vigilante customer who was said to be ‘protecting everyone’ in the restaurant.
A Texas grand jury will decide whether or not criminal charges should be brought against the still unidentified shooter, but in a statement, attorney Juan L. Guerra Jr. said he was within his rights and that the jury will agree.
‘In Texas, a shooting is justified in self-defense, defense of others and in defense of property,’ Guerra added.
A lawyer for a customer (pictured) who shot and killed a robber in a Houston taqueria last week said his actions were justified because he was ‘in fear of his life.’
Guerra went further, discussing how difficult the incident has been for his client from an emotional standpoint.
‘This event has been very traumatic, taking a human life is something he does not take lightly and will burden him for the rest of his life,’ the statement said, according to KHOU.
Washington already had a lengthy rap sheet. He was on bond for domestic violence after attacking his girlfriend – and he previously spent six years in jail for aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon.
The customer at Ranchito 4 Taqueria was hailed a hero by some after turning his weapon on the would-be robber – who strolled into the local joint, pointed a fake gun at customers and demanded they hand over cash.
The 46-year-old customer, who is believed to be Hispanic, left the scene in a dusty pickup truck, and has not yet been identified because he is not under arrest. Authorities say he is cooperating with detectives – and a Grand Jury will decide if he will face charges.
There were around ten customers eating in the restaurant when Washington entered, wearing a black ski mask and gloves, and started to rob the diners.
Many scattered to the ground and gave over their possessions in fear of Washington – who was later revealed to be taunting the taco shop with a fake firearm.
A Texas grand jury will decide whether or not criminal charges should be brought against the still unidentified shooter, but in a statement, attorney Juan L. Guerra Jr. (pictured) said he was within his rights and that the jury will agree
Eric Eugene Washington, 30, died after being shot several times by an armed diner at a local taqueria he was trying to rob. Washington had a lengthy rap sheet that included jail time for aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon
The customer – seen sitting down with his gun raised – shot the man at least nine times. A Grand Jury will decide if he will be charged
Now, records have shown Washington’s extensive criminal history, including a recent misdemeanor charge of domestic assault against his girlfriend, which occurred in December.
Court documents also confirmed that Washington was released on parole in 2021 for a conviction of aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon, for which he had been sentenced to 15 years behind bars.
Washington had been convicted in 2015 in connection to the murder of 52-year-old Hamid Waraich, the owner of a Boost Mobile cell phone store, who was fatally shot in the back during a robbery. He was paroled in 2021 after serving six years.
One of the victim’s sons, Sean Waraich, called Washington ‘an evil criminal that took joy from harassing and robbing innocent families.’
He called the taqueria vigilante a ‘true hero,’ and said he ‘did the right thing in stopping the robber and protecting the community from a dangerous perpetrator.’
Aman Waraich, another son of Hamid, said: ‘If the guy who stopped Eric was around ten years ago, maybe I’d still have my dad.’
Police arrived at the scene on January 5 after the fatal shooting
The would-be robber can be seen on surveillance video taking control of the taqueria and pointing a fake gun at customers as they pull cash out of their wallets and place it on the tables and floor.
Suddenly, the vigilante customer starts shooting until the robber falls to the ground. He retrieves the customers’ money, then proceeds to leave along with other customers at 11.30pm.
University of Houston Law Center Professor Sandra Guerra Thompson spoke to Eyewitness News about the incident and, in particular, the fake gun the criminal had in his possession.
‘I know that there are a lot of questions about the use of a gun because it wasn’t a real firearm, but that really doesn’t 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,’ she said.
Pedro Lopez, owner of the taqueria, said he and his employees are still in shock.
The fatal shooting occurred at Ranchito #4 Taqueria in southwest Houston, Texas
He told ABC13: ‘Everyone was scared, nervous. I was too. Some customers were seated here, others were over there, he go the money and was going to leave
‘You never really know what is going to happen.’
Experts believe that the customer will most likely not face charges – as his use of excessive, deadly force was justified considering the circumstances.
Former Houston police officer, now lawyer, Thomas Nixon said: ‘The person he shot was in the process of committing robbery and consequently his use of force in defense of himself and innocent third parties is completely justified in Texas.
‘He was reasonably in fear of serious bodily injury or death.’
The ‘gunman’ who entered the shop waving his pistol and shouting, was taking money and cellphones from patrons before one customer stood up and shot him
The vigilante’s vehicle is a 1970s or ’80s model pickup truck with no bed in a rusty-red color. Cops released this image to track him down to speak to him
Diners can be seen scattered on the floor in fear as the robber walks around with the fake gun
Nathan Beedle, with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, believes the shooting was justified, adding: ‘I can point you exactly where it is in the law, 9.31 and 9.32 of the penal code.
‘Whether someone uses deadly force in the situation, that is presumed to be correct under Texas law.’
Texas has some of the most permissive gun laws in the US. Residents and non-residents over the age of 21 are allowed to carry a handgun – either openly or concealed – in most places in the state.
This does not include people who have any prior felony convictions.
Since September 2021, Texans do not need a permit to open carry a handgun in the state.
Full statement from attorney for vigilante who killed robber in Houston restaurant
‘My client, who wishes to remain anonymous, was dining with a friend at El Ranchito Taqueria and, as it has been seen on video, a robbery suspect entered the restaurant, and pointed a weapon at my client and the other customers demanding money.
‘In fear of his life and his friend’s life, my client acted to protect everyone in the restaurant.
‘In Texas, a shooting is justified in self-defense, defense of others and in defense of property. The customer has met with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office and Investigators with HPD homicide. He fully intends to continue cooperating with the ongoing investigation.
‘When the investigation is complete, this case will be presented to a Grand Jury. We are confident that a Grand Jury will conclude that the shooting was justified under Texas Law.
‘This event has been very traumatic, taking a human life is something he does not take lightly and will burden him for the rest of his life. For that reason, he wishes to remain anonymous. Due to the overwhelming coverage, we ask the media and the public to respect his privacy.’