Payton Washington and 3 Other Woodlands Elite Cheerleaders Shot Outside HEB on the Way Home from Practice
Four members of an elite competitive cheerleading team in Oak Ridge were shot on Tuesday morning, after one of the athletes mistakenly tried to get into the wrong car after practice.
According to New York Post, two Texas cheerleaders were injured, one critically, when they were shot by a gunman while heading home from practice. Payton Washington, a high school senior on the cheer squad, had to be airlifted to a hospital. This was after Pedro Tello Rodriguez Jr. allegedly shot into the car Washington was in during an argument shortly after midnight, the Elgin Police Department said in the official statement on their Facebook page.
According to ABC13, the four young women drove from the Round Rock area to Woodlands Elite Cheer Company in Oak Ridge three times each week for practice. They used the Elgin H-E-B as a carpool lot for the approximately 360-mile round-trip. Cheerleader Heather Roth said that just after midnight she got out of her friend's car and opened the door to a vehicle she believed to be her own in the H-E-B parking lot.
Roth explained that there was a man sitting in the passenger seat, so she initially panicked, thinking a stranger was inside her car, and got back into her friend's vehicle.
The women noticed the man approach their vehicle, and Roth explained to the outlet that "she rolled down the window to apologize, telling him she thought it was her car." Roth said the man threw up his hands, pulled out a gun, and started shooting. An affidavit states that the H-E-B manager witnessed the gunman "shoot at the vehicle multiple times" before fleeing the area.
Lynne Shearer, the owner of Woodlands Elite Cheer, told KHOU that the four cheerleaders from her gym were carpooling from the Woodlands area to head back to their meeting spot in Elgin — 30 minutes from Austin — when they got into an altercation with the alleged gunman. The WEC owner said Payton Washington, 18, is in critical condition after being shot in the leg and back. Washington is a senior at a high school in Round Rock, Texas, and has been described as an icon and an elite superstar. "She’s really a huge face in the all-star cheerleading world," Shearer said. "She’s a mentor and role model to so many kids in this industry. She’s an amazing athlete, amazing kid, so everybody knows her and everybody’s praying for her..."
According to officers, Roth suffered a graze wound and was treated and released on the scene, but her teammate, Payton Washington, was shot in the leg and the back. Washington was flown to a nearby hospital in critical condition. "Payton opens the door, and she starts throwing up blood," Roth said about the incident.
“It was a harrowing night for all four of those girls,” Shearer told Fox 7. The cheer coach said Washington is a determined athlete who she knows will recover from her injuries. “She literally was born with one lung, so she from the very beginning as a baby, she wasn’t even expected to survive, let alone, excel in athletics, so she’s surpassed a lot of things already,” Shearer told the news station, adding, “She’s literally an icon in the world of all-star cheerleader. I mean, definitely at our gym, but literally all around the country she has so many little kids look up to her.”
In an Instagram Live on Tuesday evening, a coach said Washington, an incoming athlete for Baylor's Acrobatic and Tumbling team, "suffered damage to multiple organs and had her spleen removed. She is expected to undergo additional surgeries throughout the week." Washington was set to join Baylor University's acrobatics and tumbling team later this year on a scholarship. A GoFundMe has been set up for Washington to help her family with medical expenses.
Elgin police arrested the alleged gunman, 25-year-old Pedro Tello Rodriguez Jr., on Tuesday. He is charged with deadly conduct, and additional charges are likely. Authorities said they obtained surveillance footage of the parking lot that captured the moment shots were fired but have not released the video to the public.