A search warrant obtained in connection with the murder investigation of Columbia, South Carolina convenience store owner Rick Chow has been tossed by a judge due to lack of probable cause.
According to S.C. circuit court judge Robert Hood, warrants sought by Richland County sheriff’s department investigators “were insufficient to establish probable cause to search (Chow)’s business and home.”
“Without probable cause, there was no basis to execute the search warrants,” Hood wrote. “Accordingly, the evidence obtained through the illegal search of (Chow)’s business and home must be suppressed.”
Hood noted his decision was based not only on the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but also the S.C. Constitution, which he noted provides “greater protection” against unreasonable searches and seizures.
The warrants – which were executed on July 11, 2023 – sought “any and all employee files” as well as “files containing employee handbooks or policy manuals.” They also sought “any computer hard drives, thumb drives or portable hard drives that may contain any files that may contain any employee records or manuals.”
Chow has been charged with murder in connection with the May 29, 2023 weekend shooting of 14-year-old Cyrus Carmack-Belton at the former’s “XPress Mart” Shell gas station and convenience store located at 7441 Parklane Road in Columbia, S.C.
Carmack-Belton entered Chow’s convenience store at around 8:00 p.m. EST on Sunday, May 28, 2023 and retrieved four water bottles – but reportedly put them back in the cooler prior to departing, according to investigators. Nevertheless, at some point while he was inside the store a verbal altercation ensued between him and Chow, the owner of the store.
Carmack-Belton was allegedly chased from the store onto the 200 block of Springtree Drive by Chow and his son – Andy Chow – at which point the elder Chow shot him in the back. A handgun was retrieved near the victim’s body but according to authorities there is no indication the 14-year-old shot or pointed the gun at the store owner or his son.
Swerling and McCulloch argued on behalf of Chow during a July 25 hearing that the Richland County warrant was excessively broad as it yielded information tied to Chow’s business and personal finances that investigators had no right to see.
“They have no business looking at that stuff,” Swerling argued.
Hood concurred …
Chow – who has a valid concealed weapons permit – was charged with murder in the aftermath of Carmack-Belton’s shooting. He is currently being held without bond at the Alvin S. Glenn detention center south of Columbia, S.C. Chow was involved in a pair of previous shootings – one in 2015 and another in 2018 – but was not charged in either of those cases.
In the 2015 shooting, Chow fired six shots into a vehicle following a suspected shoplifting incident. In the 2018 shooting, Chow fired a round which struck an admitted shoplifter in the leg
THE RULING …
(Via: S.C. Fifth Circuit)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven (soon to be eight) children.
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