Houston, TX – The alleged gunman accused of murdering 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes in a drive-by shooting in December could have been sent to prison in late 2017, when he was found in possession of a gun while on parole for an assault charge.
Had that occurred, Jazmine would still be alive.
Larry Woodruffe, 24, has been named as a suspect in the Dec. 30, 2018 murder by multiple law enforcement sources, but has still not been charged in connection to the little girl’s death as of Tuesday afternoon, KPRC reported.
His alleged accomplice, 20-year-old Eric Black Jr., was charged with capital murder after he allegedly told investigators that he and Woodruffe were traveling in a rental car when they spotted a vehicle they mistakenly believed belonged to someone else, according to KTRK.
While Black drove, Woodruffe opened fire on the other car, then they sped away.
It wasn’t until they were watching the news later that they realized they had opened fire on the wrong car, Black said.
The incident occurred at approximately 6:50 a.m., as 30-year-old LaPorsha Washington and her four daughters were traveling to a shopping area to get coffee, the Houston Chronicle reported.
They were driving past a Walmart store when a vehicle pulled up next to them and riddled Washington’s car with bullets.
"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,” Washington later told KTRK. “They sped off in front of us and the truck slowed down and continued to fire as he was in front of us.”
After the suspects sped away, one of Washington’s daughters alerted her that something had happened to Jazmine.
"She said, 'Momma, Jazmine's not moving. She's not talking,’” the grieving mother recalled. “I turned around and my 7-year-old was shot in the head."
Washington tried to drive to the hospital, but her tire had been shot out during the attack, the Houston Chronicle reported.
She called 911, but her little girl died at the scene.
Acting on a tip, police pulled over a rental car Black was driving on Saturday, the Houston Chronicle reported.
He ultimately admitted that he was driving the suspect vehicle during the attack, and said that Woodruffe opened fire out a window, according to prosecutors.
The men then went and swapped their rental car out for another one, which Black was driving at the time of his arrest.
Black admitted that the murder weapon, a 9mm pistol, was inside his home, and identified Woodruffe in a photo lineup, prosecutors said.
Woodruffe was also arrested on Saturday, after he was pulled over for driving with a defective light and an obscured license plate, KTRK reported.
When officers approached Woodruffe’s vehicle, they noticed a strong odor of marijuana, and detained him.
Investigators ultimately discovered a bottle of 124 pills on him during a pat down search.
Woodruffe was being held on $100,000 bail for the drug possession charge.
He has a lengthy criminal history, including offenses for trespassing, evading arrest, and drug possession, KPRC reported.
In 2017, he was sentenced to two years in prison after he was convicted of assaulting a family member, but was out on mandatory supervision in less than a year.
By November of 2017, police caught the felony offender with a gun.
Although he was charged with felon in possession of a firearm and was still on parole at the time, Woodruffe ended up having the opportunity to plead guilty to a lesser offense.
He was sentenced to just nine months in the county jail.
In a Facebook post on Monday, the Houston Police Officers’ Union expressed outrage that Woodruffe – a known gang member – was given such a lenient sentence.
“How does someone who is a documented gang member, convicted felon for domestic violence, on parole, only get 9 months in jail for being in possession of a firearm with a 31 round magazine??” the union railed. “That someone was Larry Woodruffe and he allegedly murdered 7 yr old Jazmine Barnes in cold blood.”
“Our officers are catching these dirtbags and putting them in jail, time for the rest of the Criminal Justice System to do their job! #BrokenSystem,” the post read.
“Certainly, questions are going to arise,” Crime Stoppers Victim Services and Advocacy Director Andy Kahan told KPRC. “If he had been returned to prison, would he have been out?”
The Texas Board of Pardons and Parole said they are researching Woodruffe’s file, and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office has not responded to a request for comment regarding the convicted felon being allowed to plead guilty to the lesser weapons offense, KPRC reported.