HOUSTON: US authorities have filed capital murder charges against two men in the fatal shooting of a 22-year-old Indian student during a 20-second robbery ‘blitz’ at a Pasadena convenience store in Texas on Christmas day.
Daniel Jacob Stiner, 22, and Michael Ray Morris, 29, both from Pasadena, were charged in the death of Jayachandra Elaprolu, a computer engineer, who worked as a convenience store clerk.
Elaprolu was living in the Seabrook area, working on a master’s degree in computer engineering at the University of Houston-Clear Lake, a relative said. His remains will be sent home, with the help of the Indian Consulate in Houston.
Police said Stiner surrendered and took investigators to the Conroe area, where he told them that he would recover the mask he used in the violent ‘blitz’ robbery, so-called for its lightning-fast execution. He also promised to get the USD 400 he stole from the register.
Stiner claimed that fear drove his aggression, Houston Chronicle quoted police as saying.
Morris has maintained he was strictly a customer in the store during the 2:30 a.m. shooting, in the wrong place at the wrong time, police said. He further complained to police and a local TV station that he had been wrongly implicated in the incident, much of which was captured on surveillance video.
But police believe Morris acted as a scout, who twice went inside the store to scope out the scene, said Bud Corbett, assistant police chief in Pasadena.
According to officials, Morris, who police said is a friend of Stiner’s, went into the store the first time and made a purchase. He returned, obtained change from Elaprolu and exited the business again.
Police said Stiner, wearing a mask and carrying a semi -automatic pistol, then entered the store and immediately opened fire, striking Elaprolu at least five times as he tried to retreat to a back room. Stiner fled, carrying the lightweight register, police said.
Elaprolu was wounded in the stomach, liver, upper torso, intestine and heart.
A tip from Crime Stoppers helped in the arrests, Corbett said. Neither of the men has criminal convictions in Harris County, according to county records.
Elaprolu had moved to the US four months ago from Andhra Pradesh.