A 20-year-old man has been charged with capital murder in the death of 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes, who was killed in a drive-by shooting in Houston while in a car with her mother and sisters.
In a press release Saturday, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office investigators identified 20-year-old Eric Black Jr. as an alleged culprit in the Dec. 30 attack.
Authorities said a second suspect has been identified in the case, though Sheriff Ed Gonzalez declined at a press conference Sunday to say whether that individual is in custody.
Gonzalez said Black’s arrest came after his department investigated a tip that had been received by activist Shaun King, who had helped spearhead a campaign to find Barnes’ killer. Black, who is black, admitted to being involved in the shooting, Gonzalez said.
Based on a description from one of the children in the car Barnes was in, officers had been searching for a white man driving a red pickup truck, initially raising concerns the shooting was racially motivated as Barnes and her family are black. Police now say they do not believe the family was targeted and that the shooting may have been a case of mistaken identity.
“We believe now that that the red truck and the driver is just a witness,” Gonzalez said, adding that the chaos of the situation is likely what led to the child’s mistaken description of the gunman.
“This just went down very quickly when the gunfire erupted,” he said. “You’re talking about small children, they witnessed something very traumatic, and it’s very likely that the last thing that they did see was that red truck and the driver that was in that truck, and that’s what they remember last,” Gonzalez said.
Prosecutors have alleged that Black was driving the vehicle that pulled up alongside the family and that another person inside his vehicle fired the gun, according to Houston station Fox 26.
Even though the attack wasn’t racially motivated, Gonzalez called for more dialogue on the subject.
“There is an important discussion that does need to take place about race, about the real fear and concerns that hate crimes are in an uptick across this country, and we also need to talk about gun violence,” he said.
In an earlier statement, Gonzalez thanked authorities while noting the investigation isn’t yet over.
“I am grateful to our dedicated investigators, the partner law enforcement agencies that provided vital assistance, and tipsters from across the nation who pulled together to support our work to get justice for Jazmine,” he said. “Our work is not finished, but I believe the people of Harris County can take comfort in knowing we have made great progress.”
The shooting occurred as Barnes and her three sisters were being driven by their mother, LaPorsha Washington, to a local convenience store for an early-morning grocery run. A pickup drove alongside their vehicle and shots were fired into Washington’s car, hitting her in the arm and fatally striking Barnes.
The case attracted nationwide attention. A rally was held in Houston on Saturday in honor of Barnes.
This story has been updated with new details following Sunday’s press conference.