Grand Jury Returns Rare Indictment Over Officer-Involved Shooting In Conroe

Conroe police Sgt. Jason Blackwelder was off duty when he chased down a teenage shoplifting suspect leaving a Wal-Mart on July 31.

Blackwelder said at the time that the suspect, 19-year-old Russ Rios, was choking him during a struggle. That’s when he discharged his gun.

Now a grand jury has handed down three indictments against Blackwelder: manslaughter, tampering with a government record, and making a false report to a police officer.

Phil Grant is the first assistant Montgomery County district attorney.

“With intent to deceive, he knowingly made to Chris Tusi -- a peace officer conducting a criminal investigation -- a false statement, to wit: that the suspect Russell Rios was behind the defendant when the defendant shot suspect Russell Rios, and the statement was material to the investigation because the investigation involved whether the defendant was justified in the use of deadly force.”

The tampering charge stems from Blackwelder entering the same statement in the police department’s statement form.

Grant says officer-involved shootings are rare in Montgomery County, but it’s even less common for an officer to be indicted for one.

“Ninety-nine percent of officer-involved shootings are justified under the law and a grand jury so far in Montgomery County, I think since 1970, there hasn’t been an officer-involved shooting that resulted in the indictment of a police officer.”

Blackwelder was put on administrative leave after the shooting. If convicted of manslaughter, he faces two to 20 years in prison. But he’s also eligible for probation in each of the charges.

Blackwelder is out on bail.

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