After 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes was shot and killed in her family's car as they were going to get coffee last week, police released a sketch of the killer based on witness descriptions and offered a $100,000 reward for any information. But the man they ended up arresting wasn’t who they'd expected.
That night, Barnes’ mother, LaPorsha Washington, and sisters recalled seeing a skinny, white man speeding away from their vehicle in a red pickup truck. But two black men — Eric Black Jr. and another police haven’t yet named — were arrested over the weekend. Black was charged with capital murder Saturday and allegedly admitted to being involved in the shooting. The second man was arrested on drug charges Sunday and hasn’t been charged in connection with Barnes’ murder, although prosecutors said he’s connected to the case, according to Click2Houston.
Washington noted that her car windows weren’t tinted and publicly speculated the incident could’ve been racially motivated because the gunman could have clearly seen into her vehicle. Washington’s grief over her daughter’s death sparked social media furor, protests, and a pledge from local police that they’d find “Justice for Jazmine.”
Writer and activist Shaun King even caught wind of the murder and began circulating information. He eventually obtained a tip and sent it to Harry County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, which led to the suspects’ arrest.
“This provided a little bit of a different angle, or a much different angle, to what we were initially looking at,” Gonzalez said in a news conference Sunday.
Early last Sunday morning, Washington was driving to get coffee with her four daughters, who ranged in age from 6 to 15, when a red pickup truck pulled up beside them. A gunman then fired into Washington’s car, killing Jazmine, shooting Washington in the arm, and injuring her 6-year-old daughter. Soon after, police released grainy surveillance footage of the red pickup truck and a composite sketch of a skinny white man in a hoodie, based on the family’s descriptions.
But Washington and her daughters didn’t see the shooter; they just heard gunshots and saw a red pickup truck with a white driver peeling away from the scene, according to an Instagram post from King. At least three separate witnesses recounted the same story and assumed the white man in the truck was the shooter.
“In the meantime, the two men that actually shot and killed Jazmine drove off in a completely different direction through the neighborhood. They each later claimed that they thought they were shooting someone from a rival gang,” King wrote on Instagram. “Yes, they did it. No, they weren’t framed. It just took several days to solve it.”
Gonzalez stressed during the press conference that authorities believe Washington and her daughters were truthful in their account and that the shooting had transpired quickly.
“You’re talking about small children; they witnessed something very traumatic,” Gonzalez said. “It’s very likely that the last thing they did see was indeed that red truck, and the driver who was in that truck.”
Cover image: Donna Thomas holds a flyer about the shooting suspect as she attends a community rally for seven-year-old Jazmine Barnes on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019 in Houston. Barnes was killed when a driver shot into the car she and her family were driving in last Sunday. (Melissa Phillip/Houston Chronicle via AP)