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'Lovable, likeable and humorous': Teachers, principal remember Columbia middle schooler shot and killed

14-year-old Cyrus Carmack-Belton attended Summit Parkway Middle School before law enforcement say he was chased out of a gas station and shot by the owner.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The community is still grappling with the loss of Cyrus Carmack-Belton, a Columbia middle schooler who was shot and killed over the weekend. 

On Springtree Drive, candles, flowers, stuffed animals and balloons are collected in a memorial for 14-year-old Cyrus Carmack-Belton near where he was shot and killed Sunday night.

"Lovable, likeable and humorous," are the words Summit Parkway Middle School Principal April Shell chose to describe Carmack-Belton, who was an eighth grader at the school.

Shell says Carmack-Belton was ambitious, with plans of opening his own tattoo shop one day.

"He had ambitions, ambitions and goals, dreams, just to, you know, first of all soar through here and land in high school, but he was on his way just to do that," Shell said of the teenager's plans.

"There is no way you're gonna talk to Cyrus without smiling. That's how energizing he was. It's hard not to miss Cyrus," science teacher Cornel Ouma said. "He was like, he brings up some good energy. He got some good energy with him to class."

Ouma says Cyrus’s presence is missed by teachers across the school, like Brittany Stevens and Deidre Moore.

"A go-getter. He definitely had a mentality like if there's something he wanted to do, he's gonna do it. Silly. Only he could get away with saying some of the stuff he said. And to know him is to know that you couldn't take anything serious that he said," Stevens said. "And another word I would use to describe him...he was definitely capable. He was an intelligent young man too."

"Cyrus was definitely a social butterfly. That's what makes it difficult for some of the students to grasp," Moore said. "You have a social butterfly dying by himself. It doesn't make sense."

It’s a concept people are grappling with all across Columbia after Richland County deputies say the teenager was chased out of the Shell gas station on Parklane Road and shot in the back by the gas station’s owner, Rick Chow.

Investigators say Chow falsely accused the teen of shoplifting. Officers say there have been hundreds of calls for service to the station in the last five years.

In both 2015 and 2018, the Richland County Sheriff's Department says it responded to calls about Chow firing shots at customers, who he believed were shoplifting. 

This history of incidents is leading people like Justin Hunt with the South Carolina Black Activists Coalition to call for a response from the Shell station. The group has been sharing posts on social media, asking people to send messages to Shell requesting a response.

"[It's a] series of events that has been going on at this establishment, so we have to bring the noise to shell to bring awareness to it. We don't want any…we don't want this to ever happen," Hunt explains. "Hopefully, they can talk to the community and put an establishment in there that's a lot safer in the future."

News 19 reached out to Shell and to Motiva Enterprises LLC, which said while its fuel is sold at the store, it’s not the owner and operator. Instead, according to Motiva, the independent owner is actually the entity that will determine the station’s future. 

"We were deeply saddened to hear of the tragic loss of life in Columbia, SC," a statement from Motiva reads. "The Shell retail fuels business in the U.S. is operated by independent wholesalers who operate under the Shell brand and sell Shell-branded fuels. While the name on the sign reflects the brand of the motor fuel being sold on the premises, the day-to-day site operations are the legal responsibility of the wholesaler, site owner and/or operator. Motiva distributes Shell-branded fuel to SEI Fuels, who redistributes to independently owned stations."

As for those who knew Cyrus, this is a tragedy they don’t want to relive.

"For us, he's not a hashtag, he's not a statistic," Moore says. "He’s not a story. He's our student, our students, classmates, that's no longer there. And it's very real and very raw."

On Thursday, the Richland County Sheriff's Department said it is asking for the solicitor's opinion to see if any other charges are warranted in this case. The solicitor's office told us it's waiting for all the investigation materials come in. Once the office gets those, it will then do a review to make a final decision.

Residents are planning a community vigil on Friday from 6-8 p.m. at 200 Springtree Drive, where attendees can gather for prayer and grief support.

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