A Texas grand jury will decide whether or not charges should be brought against a customer who shot and killed a robber in a southwest Houston taqueria last week.
Eric Eugene Washington, 30, died after being shot several times by a customer with a firearm. He was later revealed to have had a lengthy rap sheet that most recently included domestic violence. He was also out on parole for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
The armed diner at Ranchito 4 Taqueria has been hailed a hero after turning his weapon upon a would-be robber, who strolled into the local joint, pointed a fake weapon at its customers and demanded they fork over cash.
The 46-year-old customer, who has been described as white or Hispanic, has not yet been identified because, police say, he is not under arrest. Authorities say he is cooperating with detectives.
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 after his robbery
On Monday, the medical examiner identified the deceased robber as 30-year-old Eric Eugene Washington.
Records illustrate Washington’s extensive criminal history that included a recent misdemeanor charge of domestic assault against his girlfriend, which occurred in December of 2022.
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.
Two other men were also charged in connection with the crime. Washington was paroled in 2021 after serving six years.
At the time of his death, Waraich had a fiancée and children. One of the victim’s sons, Sean Waraich, called the deceased robber ‘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 rigt 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 10 years ago, maybe I’d still have my dad.’
The vigilante diner has not been identified by police because he has not been charged with a crime. Law enforcement say he is cooperating
The customer shot the robber, seen in the red ring, after he entered Ranchito #4 Taqueria and demanded people’s money and cellphones at gunpoint. Police believe that the masked robber was actually using a fake gun
Pedro Lopez, owner of the taqueria, said he and his employees are still in shock but he is glad that his staff and customers were unharmed in the shooting
An attorney for the vigilante made the following statement:
‘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.
Self defense or excessive force: Will the shooter face charges?
In Texas, people are allowed to use fatal force when they believe their life or another party’s life is in immediate danger.
Experts say that Texas law also outlines specific instances for aggravated robbery where deadly force is completely justified.
In this case, where the person he shot was in the process of committing an ‘armed’ robbery, the customer’s use of deadly force in self defense is allowed.
He would have also reasonably been in fear of serious bodily injury or death, believing the robber had a gun.
The defense can be used as a defense to homicide charges. It is legal to kill someone in self defense in Texas if:
1. You reasonably believe that there is an imminent danger of you or someone else being seriously injured or killed.
2. Your use of deadly force was necessary and appropriate at the time you used it.
‘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.’
The would-be robber can be seen on surveillance video taking control of the taqueria and pointing what looks like a gun at customers as they take cash out of their wallets and place it on the tables and floor.
Suddenly, the vigilante customer began shooting, even moving closer to the robbery suspect as he continued to fire shots at close range.
He appears to place the customers’ money back on the table, then seems to realize the mortally wounded robber’s gun wasn’t real and proceeded to leave the shop along with the other customers.
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.