Potter County grand jurors no-billed an employee of La Bella Pizza on Olsen on Wednesday, saying he acted in self-defense during a shooting that left one robber dead at the restaurant last month.
The grand jury also changed the charge of another alleged robber, Ruben Ryel Rios, from felony murder to aggravated robbery. Both are first-degree felonies, but Potter County District Attorney Randall Sims said his office felt “the facts better suit the aggravated robbery, which was the underlying offense for the felony murder” charge.
“We felt like that was going to be a better case for us to try if we have to go to court,” Sims said.
Amarillo Police Department Officers were sent to the pizzeria at 3801 Olsen Blvd. on a robbery call on the night of Jan. 9. Clayton Jerrell Morgan, 36, was allegedly trying to rob the restaurant when he walked in through the back door and grabbed an employee by the hood of his sweatshirt. Morgan was carrying a gun manufactured to look like a real weapon, police said.
“In this case, it looked like a very large revolver, but it was a CO2 pistol,” Sims said.
Altered toy guns are getting harder to identify, the DA said.
“It is tough for officers to identify (fake guns) because they have made them to look so realistic,” Sims said. “I can tell you, the hostage that got grabbed, I guarantee you he thought (Morgan) had a real gun. His (the hostage’s) mannerisms were totally changed from the time (Morgan) grabbed him when he saw that gun. At first, he thought it was just one of the friends grabbing his hoodie and pulling on him and messing with him. Then he saw that gun, and it was ‘Whoa.’ (It) completely changed his attitude.”
Morgan forced the employee to walk toward the front of the business, and police said an armed employee confronted the pair. Morgan then pointed the toy gun at the armed employee, APD said, and the armed employee shot Morgan. Morgan was taken to a local hospital where he later died.
The armed employee, who has not been named by authorities, is licensed to carry a firearm and “handled himself very well,” Sims said.
“He did all the right things,” Sims said. “He’s a very well-trained person with a handgun. He handled that situation as well as a peace officer would have.
“With the facts we had, I can tell you, there’s no question that there was a defense of third party and then it turned into him defending himself. No doubt about that.”
Rios, the other man involved in the robbery, was later arrested and initially charged with felony murder. Under the state’s felony murder rule, a person can be charged with murder if they are involved in a felony crime that causes a death.
If convicted on the indicted charge of aggravated robbery, Rios, 29, would face a minimum of 15 to 99 years or life in prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000. Normally, the punishment for a first-degree felony conviction is for a minimum of five to 99 years or life plus the fine, but Rios previously has been convicted of a felony, Sims said.