However, as he passed by a booth, one of the two men sitting there reportedly drew a handgun of his own and shot the suspect nine times. The suspect was later pronounced dead at the scene. Investigators claimed that the customer who shot the suspect subsequently returned the stolen belongings to the appropriate customers, who then all left the restaurant. Only store employees remained by the time police arrived, reports suggest.
The appearance of the suspect was obscured by a ski mask and gloves, and he has not yet been identified. However, police have determined that he was black. Now, police say they want to speak with the man who caused his death.
A press release from the City of Houston indicated that police are searching for "a white or Hispanic male" about his supposed "role in the shooting." The release included a screenshot of the alleged shooter's face as well as a picture of the truck he is believed to have driven to the establishment that night.
The statement from the city explicitly emphasized that "[n]o charges have been filed" against the shooter and that he is wanted only for further "questioning." Some have since speculated that the police want to speak with him for two key reasons: He allegedly fled the scene, and the gun the suspect had been wielding turned out to be fake.
"[The suspect] had a plastic pistol, possibly an aero soft or possibly a little BB pistol," said Lt. R. Wilkens of Houston PD.
Though the weapon ultimately turned out to be essentially harmless, KHOU Legal Analyst Carmen Roe claimed that the lethality of the weapon should not matter when determining whether the shooter acted in self-defense.
"Everybody in that restaurant clearly believed it was a real gun," Roe said. Therefore, the shooter was likely justified in "continuing to shoot until the deadly threat" had been neutralized, she added.
She also claimed that the shooter had no legal "obligation" to remain at the scene, even if he had used fatal force.
"Staying there to answer questions is important," Roe asserted. "It’s something that, as a lawyer, I would have advised to have done, but at the same time, you have no obligation to stay on the scene of a situation like that."
Prominent journalist Andy Ngo tweeted about the incident and claimed that "[b]ecause the robber was black, some leftist activists say this was an unjustified shooting." However, Ngo did not specify which activists had decried the shooting, and a basic internet search for examples of such activist outrage yielded no results.
Plenty of Twitter users who responded to Ngo's tweet, however, praised the shooter and hinted that the suspect brought his own death upon himself.
"They should give the [shooter] a medal and he should be hailed as a hero," said one popular response.
Another popular comment included a gif which makes reference to the phrase "f*** around and find out" commonly used by members of younger generations.