Skip to Content

Cheerleader recalls being shot after friend opened the wrong car door

<i>ABC</i><br/>Payton Washington spoke out for the first time to ABC.
Payton Washington spoke out for the first time to ABC.

By Jay Croft, CNN

(CNN) — A Texas cheerleader who was shot and critically injured after another girl mistakenly opened the wrong car door says she was scared during the shooting but tried to stay calm for her even more frightened friends.

Payton Washington, 18, was injured in April outside a supermarket in Elgin, about 20 miles east of Austin, shortly after midnight. She was struck three times in her leg and back, damaging her pancreas and diaphragm. She had surgery to remove her ruptured spleen.

The incident was one of a string of recent incidents in which young people were shot during apparently safe, ordinary encounters.

Washington spoke publicly for the first time to Michael Strahan in an interview that aired Friday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

She said she was writing a text and eating candy at the time of the shooting.

“I didn’t know where it was coming from,” Washington said, “With it being so loud and my ears ringing, I knew to turn and do something.”

Washington was one of two teens shot in the supermarket parking lot, police said.

The other cheerleader, Washington’s cheer teammate Heather Roth, said she had gotten out of a friend’s car in the parking lot and opened the driver’s side door of a nearby car she thought was hers. Roth said she tried to apologize to the man she found in the passenger seat but he got out of the car and started shooting, according to CNN affiliate KTRK.

They got back in the other car and sped away.

“I didn’t see him,” Washington said. “We were trying to get away as fast as we could. All the other girls were screaming.”

Roth was grazed, and Washington was shot three times.

Washington said she was trying to stay calm for the others. “I could tell how sad and scared they were. Of course it was scary but I wasn’t going to act like I was scared.”

She saw blood on her seat and threw up blood when the girls pulled over.

She was left with holes in her stomach and diaphragm, and part of her pancreas was removed.

“The hardest part was after surgeries,” she said. “Hurting to walk or stand is really weird when before you were doing a bunch of flips, running track, doing long jumps.”

Roth was treated and released at the scene.

College in the fall

Police arrested and charged a 25-year-old suspect with deadly conduct with a firearm. ABC reported he was released on $100,000 bond.

“I’m just going to try to get through it,” Washington said. “There’s no point in me thinking about what he did.”

She plans to attend Baylor University in the fall, after walking across the stage with classmates at their recent high school graduation.

“You can literally do anything if you push, if you persevere,” she said. “Don’t doubt yourself ever because you can do anything as long as you’re putting your 120 percent into it.”

The other shootings that occurred that week affecting young people in otherwise ordinary encounters involved a 6-year-old and her dad wounded over a reportedly errant basketball in North Carolina; a 16-year-old struck in the head after ringing a doorbell in Kansas City; and a 20-year-old killed allegedly by the owner of a home whose driveway she’d inadvertently turned into.

At the time of the shooting, Roth and Washington were commuting in a three-times-a-week carpool to a cheerleading gym in the Houston suburb of Oak Ridge North.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - National

Jump to comments ↓

CNN Newsource


KIFI Local News 8 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content