"She's super strong, and I know she's going to come out of the other side in the most amazing possible way," Heather Roth said.
A teenage cheerleader is recovering after she was shot at in a Texas parking lot after her friend tried to enter the wrong car by mistake. On April 17, Heather Roth and Payton Washington were traveling back from a cheerleading practice in Oak Ridge, Texas, with two other friends, PEOPLE reported.
Roth exited her friend's car and walked up to a car that looked like hers and tried to open it before realizing that there was a man in the passenger seat. The cheerleader panicked and went back to her friend's car, per KTRK-TV, but the man started to approach them angrily. Roth rolled down her window to apologize to the man for the mistake but he pulled out a gun and started to shoot at their car. Peyton got hurt really badly. "He just threw his hands up, and then he pulled out a gun and he just started shooting at all of us," Roth recalled. Roth was also injured in the incident but was treated and released at the scene.
AGAIN: When two Woodlands Elite cheerleaders in Texas accidentally tried to get into the wrong vehicle in an HEB parking lot in Austin after their practice session, a 25-year-old man opened fire on them. One of the victims is in the ICU. #txlege https://t.co/TS4OAohP4q— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) April 19, 2023
Payton is now receiving care in a nearby ICU. She sustained serious injuries after being shot in the leg and the back and was airlifted to a hospital after the horrific incident. "She's super strong, and I know she's going to come out of the other side in the most amazing possible way," Roth said of her friend Payton, per KTRK-TV.
Pedro Tello Rodriguez Jr., a suspect, was detained and accused of deadly conduct. He is 25 years old. Police stated that the inquiry is still open.
Cheerleader Payton Washington was shot after a stranger opened fire on her and three friends in the parking lot of a grocery store in Texas.— NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (@NBCNightlyNews) April 19, 2023
The incident follows two recent shootings tied to innocent mistakes like approaching the wrong car or home.@BreakingChesky reports. pic.twitter.com/mLFuZSY35F
Owner of the Woodlands Elite Cheer Company, Lynne Shearer, stated that although Payton was "throwing up blood" after being shot, she was "doing well" by April 19 night after having her spleen removed. "Her stomach is not closed up yet, and they are keeping her on heavy antibiotics for at least 48 hours to hopefully fight off infection," Shearer said, per CNN. "Once they are sure there is no infection, they will go back in and finish up any issues and close her up."
Payton's father, Kelan Washington, told NBC News that his daughter is tough. “Payton’s accomplished everything she has with only one lung [from] when she was born. She’s as tough as they come,” he said.
Payton Washington was shot in the leg and back during the attack, damaging her pancreas and diaphragm and requiring her to undergo surgery to remove her ruptured spleen, Lynne Shearer, managing partner of the Woodlands Elite cheer program, told CNN https://t.co/sJPvMQH5tl— CNN (@CNN) April 20, 2023
"You watched her walk up to your door on accident — it's a girl in a cheer outfit," he added, per the outlet.
The other girls, according to Kelan Washington, are supporting his daughter and are doing "fine" in the wake of the incident. “They’re family. Those girls are Payton’s sisters basically in spirit and in team camaraderie,” he said. “Of course, they’re very concerned about their sister, they’re very concerned about their leader. Payton was the leader of this cheer squad in Houston.”
Instead of competing at Cheerleading Worlds, Payton Washington is in the ICU—because a gunman shot her and her friend for accidentally getting into the wrong car.— Gabrielle Giffords (@GabbyGiffords) April 19, 2023
Payton's dad said she's as tough as they come, and I believe it. Keep fighting, Payton.https://t.co/5QHBBZhHde
A GoFundMe page has been set up by her cheerleading team to help with her medical expenses. "We ask that you keep our athletes in your prayers at this devastating time," the fundraiser reads.
Cover Image Source: GoFundMe