An innocent mistake has caused two teenagers on a competitive cheerleading team to be reportedly shot by a stranger in Oak Ridge, Texas, after one of the teenagers mistakenly attempted to get in the wrong car.
According to ABC13 News, Heather Roth and her three teammates from the Round Rock area were members of the Woodlands Elite Cheer Company in Oak Ridge.
The teens drove to practice three times a week and parked in the same lot. They reportedly used the Elgin H-E-B lot as a central meetup spot to carpool the 360-mile round trip. It was reported that just after midnight on Tuesday morning, Roth was dropped off at a car by her friend that she thought was her vehicle. She opened the door and noticed a man sitting in the passenger seat.
Roth was frightened and quickly got back in the car with her friend because she thought a stranger was in her vehicle. The strange man got out of the car he was sitting in and approached Roth’s friend’s vehicle.
Roth noticed the man approaching the vehicle and she rolled down her window to apologize.
“He raised his hands and then brandished his weapon and then just started shooting at the girls,” Payton’s father Kelan Washington told NBC News.
Police officers stated that Roth suffered a graze wound. She was treated on the scene and then released. Her teammate, Payton Washington, was reportedly shot in the leg and back.
“Payton opens the door, and she starts throwing up blood,” Roth said.
Washington was flown to a nearby hospital in critical condition. The high-school senior suffered damage to multiple organs and had to have her spleen removed. Elite Cheer Company co-owner Lynne Shearer said that she already was competing with one lung.
“She’s a fighter. She’s very strong,” Shearer told ABC13 News.
Washington was an incoming freshman athlete for the Acrobatic and Tumbling team at Baylor University.
Baylor University’s head coach Felecia Mulkey visited her in the hospital on Tuesday, according to a spokesperson from the school.
Mulkey released the following statement to ABC13 News:
“Payton is a strong young lady; if you know her, you know that about her. I have no doubt she’s going to get through this. She’s an amazing athlete but a better human, and that’s why she’s a part of our Baylor family. My prayers are with Payton and her teammates, that were involved in last night’s tragic event. I know mental wounds also leave scars. 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.”
Elgin Police reportedly arrested the 25-year-old gunman, Pedro Tello Rodriguez Jr., on Tuesday. He is being charged with deadly conduct, and sources told ABC13 News that he likely will face additional charges.
Police said they obtained surveillance footage from the parking lot that captured the shooting but have not released the video to the public.
An affidavit also stated that the parking lot’s manager witnessed the gunman shoot multiple times and flee the scene.
The girls were set to compete this weekend at Cheerleading Worlds in Orlando.
“It’s the only title (Washington) hasn’t won in All-Star Cheer. She’s literally won everything there is to win in this sport except for a world title, and this was her last chance to do that,” Shearer said. “Payton is the ultimate competitor. She would not want her team not to go and not be at this championship and not compete. So we will be there, and we will compete.”
A GoFundMe page was set up to help Washington and her family with medical expenses.