Last Sunday a 7-year-old girl named Jazmine Barnes was shot in the head while riding in a car with her mother and family. Jazmine’s 15-year-old sister claimed she had seen the person who committed the heinous crime. He was a white man in 40s driving a red pickup truck. Activist Shaun King announced a reward for information on the killer.
Almost immediately there were celebrities involved spreading the word:
Please help find this murderer if you can. https://t.co/aFCq71RlBS
— olivia wilde (@oliviawilde) January 2, 2019
Director Avu DuVernay shared some heart-breaking video of the little girl’s mother:
The mother of #JazmineBarnes on the fatal shooting of her 7-year old daughter. Killer pulled up to the family in his red truck and fired shots directly into their car. Jazmine died at the scene. Dec 30. Houston. Murderer is a white male, 40s and is still at large. #SayHerName pic.twitter.com/OlDWJ0DPOO
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) January 2, 2019
The story was also covered on CNN:
The father of a 7-year-old girl who was killed in a drive-by shooting is looking for the public to help authorities in the manhunt for a gunman who opened fire near a Houston-area Walmart. https://t.co/Bu356Ej0k1 pic.twitter.com/pQfogEhBh5
— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) January 1, 2019
Gabrielle Union urged her followers to “Find him!”
Find him! This evil monster must be stopped! https://t.co/dUUArkowcX
— Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu) January 2, 2019
By the middle of the week, Jazmine’s mother LaPorsha Washington, who had been talking with Shaun King, was saying she believed the attack was a hate crime. From the Houston Chronicle:
In a news conference in west Harris County, Washington spoke to reporters, along with Barnes’ father, Chris Cevilla, and Barnes’ older sister, Alxis Dilbert.
Washington said she believed the attack was a hate crime, and provided new details about the early morning incident and shared more stories about her young daughter.
“We’re missing a piece to our puzzle,” Washington said.
On Wednesday, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said during a press conference, “We’re not tone deaf to some of the concerns in our community where this could be potentially race-related.” However, he added that for now the goal was to find the shooter and look at motive later. On Thursday, police released this sketch of the man they were looking for based on the description given to them by Jazmine’s sister:
This is the man witnesses say murdered 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes on 12/30 as her family drove on the E. Sam Houston Pkwy frontage road at Wallisville Road. Thin white man, 30's-40's, in a red pickup. Call 713-221-6000 or @CrimeStopHOU at 713-222-TIPS #JusticeForJazmine #hounews pic.twitter.com/URR3w2Wxbm
— HCSOTexas (@HCSOTexas) January 3, 2019
But even as the media and the BLM activists were gearing up to make this case another example of violent white supremacy, something unexpected happened. Yesterday, police announced they had arrested and charged a suspect:
— HCSOTexas (@HCSOTexas) January 6, 2019
The fact that the alleged killer was a young black man and not an older white man in a red pickup came as a surprise to some. From the Washington Post:
Jazmine’s death was publicized in part by the efforts of activist Shaun King, civil rights lawyer Lee Merritt, who represents the family, and numerous celebrities. Merritt and King offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the suspect’s arrest, and King has continuously tweeted updates in the case to his 1.1 million Twitter followers.
Many, including Merritt, speculated that the crime was racially motivated based on early witness accounts of the suspect — who was described by authorities as a “thin white man” in his 30s or 40s.
“The family is still really grateful that it seems law enforcement has identified the shooter,” Merritt told The Post on Sunday morning. “However, all the information up until yesterday has been that the shooter was an older white male in a red truck, that came from not only one of the victims, 15-year-old Alexis, but from an eyewitness nearby.”
He added, “We had at least four independent witnesses who believed the shooter in this situation was a white male . . . To learn that it wasn’t, isn’t disappointing, but it is surprising.”
The added twist is that the tip leading to the arrest actually came in through Shaun King who had been offering a $100,000 reward. He wrote about the sudden change in the direction of the case on Instagram:
On this past Thursday, a brave witness came to me to report that Larry Woodruffe and Eric Black, Jr. actually shot and killed 7 year old Jazmine Barnes and that Jazmine’s mother and family and 4 other eyewitnesses had confused a white man who sped off in his truck as the shooter. I reported this to the Sheriff immediately, because the witness was so compelling, but the sheriff and I both just could not make sense of it. 4 different eyewitnesses thought the shooter was the white man in the truck. It wasn’t. It was these men. We received so many bad tips, and so much misinformation, it just took us 3 days to solve it after the initial report was made.
Let me tell you the story of the red truck and how it came to be the focus of this investigation. Two men, in a completely different vehicle, pulled up and shot and killed Jazmine Barnes, shot her mother, and injured her sisters. Jazmine and the girls were still in pajamas. Her mother and the girls never saw the shooter. They heard the shots, saw that Jazmine was shot in the head, that her mother was shot, and then looked up and saw this red truck with a white man driving it peeling off. THREE separate eyewitnesses, each credible, who also heard the shooting, also saw this truck speeding off. I spoke to each of them. They also assumed the white man driving it fired the shots. A brave man even followed the red truck in his own car and got a good look at him. A tow truck driver also saw the truck and got a look at him. 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. Yes, they did it. No, they weren’t framed. It just took several days to solve it.
So, someone fired shots and the man in the red truck hit the gas to get away from the area. Everyone else just assumed he must have been the shooter, including Jazmine’s older sister who was probably traumatized at what was happening inside the car. There’s no doubt this is a tragedy for the family regardless of who pulled the trigger. But as late as yesterday Shaun King was still saying something didn’t add up:
I don’t know what he means by that. Is he suggesting there’s more to this story than we know so far? It’s worth remembering that King doesn’t have a spotless record on cases he publicizes. Last May he helped spread a story that a black woman named Sherita Dixon-Cole had been raped by a police officer. But a video released by the police showed that no such thing had happened. Maybe the lesson here is to take Shaun King with a grain of salt. His intervention seems to have helped in this case, just not in the way he was expecting.