Conroe police officer indicted for July shooting of teen

CONROE - A grand jury indicted a Conroe police officer in the shooting death of an unarmed teen.

From the day 19-year-old Russell Rios was killed by Conroe police officer Jason Blackwelder, the teen's parents have been on a mission.

"Nobody deserves to die the way that my son died," said Rios' father, Juan Cuyun.

Cuyun and his wife, Jacqueline Rios, never believed Blackwelder's description of events.

"I knew it was a lie whatever they were saying," said Cuyun.

Conroe police said on July 31, Blackwelder was off duty at Walmart when he ran over to help capture shoplifting suspect Russell Rios. Blackwelder claimed he chased Rios out of the Walmart into the woods. At the time, Conroe police backed Blackwelder, and said the teen had attacked him.

"The officer was being choked by the suspect," said Conroe police spokeswoman Dorcy Riddle. "The officer was in fear for his life. He felt he was going to lose consciousness and did fire his weapon."

Rios' parents said evidence showed their son was shot in the back of the head, which they said made Officer Blackwelder's claims impossible.

"I had the fear that it was going to be maybe a cover-up," said Cuyun.

After Conroe police, the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, the Montgomery County District Attorney and Rios' family investigated for two months, DA Brett Ligon presented the case to a grand jury. As a result, the grand jury issued three indictments against Blackwelder.

"The law on the manslaughter is clear, that the grand jury believed that the officer recklessly caused the death of Mr. Rios," said Ligon.

In addition to manslaughter, Blackwelder is charged with tampering with a government document and filing a false report. If convicted, Blackwelder could spend up to 20 years in prison.

"It's a really good thing because now I can go back in my mind and think there is justice," said Cuyun.

The Rios family still plans to file a civil lawsuit against the Conroe Police Department and Walmart. They have also filed a civil rights complaint with the FBI.

In a statement, Conroe police said, "The City of Conroe Police Department relieved Blackwelder of all duties during the investigation and has now suspended Blackwelder without pay pending the final disposition of the criminal charges."

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