Texas police have arrested a suspect after a gunman shot into a car in the Houston area over the weekend before New Year’s Day, killing a 7-year-old girl.
The 7-year-old, Jazmine Barnes, had been in a car with her mother and three sisters when they were attacked in what police called a “random and senseless” shooting. Here’s what we know about the story so far.
A man shot randomly into the car, killing Jazmine and injuring her mother.
Jazmine’s mother, LaPorsha Washington, told ABC13 that she and her daughters were on their way to get coffee on Sunday morning, and had just driven past a Walmart when another car pulled up, and someone began firing shots into her car.
“As I turned around and looked back at the street, I heard shots start firing and they came through my window, broke my glass, and hit me in my arm,” she said. “They sped off in front of us and the truck slowed down and continued to fire as he was in front of us.”
Washington told CNN that she threw her body over her eldest daughter in the front passenger seat and told her other three daughters to “get down,” but once the shooting was over, one of her other daughters discovered that 7-year-old Jazmine was dead.
“She said, ‘Momma, Jazmine’s not moving. She’s not talking,’” Washington told ABC13. “I turned around and my 7-year-old was shot in the head.”
Suspicion began to circulate that it was a racially motivated attack.
According to the New York Times, the gunman was described as a bearded white man in his 40s, who was wearing a red, hooded sweatshirt and driving a red pickup truck at the time of the incident. Police told the Times just a few days after the shooting that they were still establishing a motive, and had not ruled out the possibility of a racially motivated hate crime.
“It’s our belief that it was totally unprovoked, whatever it was, and we’re leaving no stone unturned,” Sheriff Ed Gonzalez of Harris County told reporters. “We’re going to leave every motive out there as a possibility. There was nothing to indicate that the family did anything wrong in any way. They were simply just driving along the service road when this happened to them.”
A manhunt went underway for the suspect, though there initially were few leads.
The family set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for any expenses they may need, and asked anyone with information to come forward. Investigators released a photo of the suspect’s four-door pickup truck, though the make and model are not yet known, and a $35,000 reward has been offered to find the gunman.
“I’m asking, from the bottom of my heart,” Jazmine’s father, Chris Cevilla, said at a news conference. “Whoever knows anything, please step up at this point in time and help me and my family get justice for my baby girl.”
Police arrested a suspect who didn’t match the original description.
A week after the incident, police arrested Eric Black Jr. in connection with the shooting. Black, a 20-year-old black male, did not match the original sketch of the suspect, and authorities now believe that the white man in a pickup truck may have just been a bystander.
“This just went down very quickly,” Sheriff Gonzalez told New York Times. “When the gunfire erupted — we are talking about small children, they witnessed something very traumatic. And it’s very likely the last thing they did see was that red truck and the driver in that truck.”
Police also said that Black acknowledged taking part in the shooting, and that the Barnes family’s car was most likely not the intended target.
Black was charged with capital murder, and authorities have also arrested a second suspect, though that man, Larry Woodruffe, has not yet been charged in Jazmine’s death. However, Sheriff Gonzalez said there’s still a possibility that additional charges will be filed against Woodruffe as investigations continue.
The arrests changed the narrative of a racially motivated hate crime, though that does little to quell the grief of a family that’s still mourning their daughter.
“They wanted the right person to be convicted — not a white person,” S. Lee Merritt, the Barnes family’s attorney, told CNN. “This is the first opportunity they’ve been given to mourn. The family is entering a period of deep grieving.”
This post has been updated throughout.