HOUSTON — A man was charged with capital murder in the shooting of 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes, who was killed as she rode in a car with her family in Texas.
Investigators identified Eric Black Jr., 20, as a suspect based on a tip. He was arrested and has admitted to taking part in the shooting, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement early Sunday.
“Investigators are continuing to pursue evidence that could possibly lead to other suspects being charged in this case,” the statement said. “At this time, investigators do not believe Jazmine’s family was the intended target of the shooting, and that they were possibly shot as a result of mistaken identity.”
Barnes was riding in a car with her mother, LaPorsha Washington of Houston, and three sisters on December 30 about 7 a.m. when a man in a red or maroon pickup truck drove up next to their vehicle and opened fire.
Jazmine was fatally shot in the head.
Washington, 30, was shot in the arm, while Jazmine’s 6-year-old sister was hit by shattered glass. Jazmine’s two teenage sisters were not harmed.
Before the arrest, police had released a sketch of the suspect Thursday compiled from descriptions from Jazmine’s mother and three sisters. At the time, authorities had said it showed a white man in his 40s.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the arrest “should serve as a warning to all violent offenders who prey on our community” that they will be arrested eventually.
“It’s now my hope that justice will prevail and that Jazmine’s family will find some comfort knowing the alleged gunman is off the street,” he said.
The Harris County Sheriff’s Office tweeted Saturday night that their homicide investigation had taken a “new direction,” without providing specifics.
“Detectives are in the process of interviewing persons of interest. More details will be released as soon as possible.”
Attack ‘was totally unprovoked’
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez has previously said that investigators believe the attack “was totally unprovoked.”
The girls were still in their pajamas, traveling to Joe V’s Smart Shop to get supplies for breakfast with their grandmother, who was staying with the family when they were shot at.
Investigators released an enhanced surveillance video of the extended-cab pickup and urged residents to call with leads. They asked people with access to surveillance camera around Wallisville Road and East Sam Houston Parkway to check their footage.
Rally for Jazmine
Saturday, hundreds attended a rally outside the Walmart near the road where Jazmine was killed.
“There’s going to be justice for her,” Washington told the crowd, “because there’s too many people out here looking for this man.”
She said Jazmine would have celebrated her birthday next month.
“I’m telling you, every time I see one of y’all reach out for me, I can hold my head up,” she said. “I can get up in the morning.”
A series of speakers, including members of Jazmine’s family and community leaders, expressed dismay and shock at the murder of the young girl.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee called for a nationwide manhunt for the suspect.
“This is no longer a Houston case,” Lee said. “This is the case that has taken national proportions and so you are gathered here for the nation to see that there is no room for failure.”
Many speakers addressed Jazmine’s killer directly on Saturday, calling him a coward and pleading with him to turn himself in.
Support for family
The impact of Jazmine’s death has been felt far and wide, and supporters have come together to support the family.
Nearly 2,500 people have donated to a GoFundMe set up for Jazmine’s funeral expenses and family. Houston Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins has said he’ll donate his playoff game check to the family.
Jazmine will also be remembered Tuesday during a “Justice for Jazmine Barnes Community Rally” honoring “all murdered victims in Houston/Harris County,” according to organizers.
Services for Jazmine are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Tuesday with a viewing at Green House International Church. Her funeral is at noon. Mourners plan to release purple balloons — Jazmine’s favorite color.
Jazmine’s father, Christopher Cevilla, this week thanked the countless supporters. He appealed to the public for information about the attack.
“I just want anybody, whoever, out there that knows anything about the murder of my daughter, to just please step up as if it was your own,” he said. “Just put yourself in my shoes, in my family’s shoes.”