Two In Custody For Drive-By Shooting, Murdering Seven-Year-Old Girl
Houston, TX – Police have arrested two men in connection with the murder of 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes, who was shot in the head as she was riding in a car with her family on Dec. 30, 2018.
Eric Black Jr., 20, has been charged with capital murder, KTRK reported.
Larry Woodruffe, 24, has been charged with drug possession, and is expected to face charges in the capital murder case, according to WLS.
According to court documents, Black told investigators that they fired into the car Barnes was riding in because they mistakenly believed it was a vehicle associated with someone else, KTRK reported.
It wasn’t until they were watching the news later that they realized they had opened fire on the wrong car.
Sources close to the investigation said that Woodruffe was the one who pulled the trigger.
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.
“When all this broke on the very first day, it became very apparent to us that this would be one of those cases that we would have to have all hands all deck,” Houston Police Homicide Unit Commander Lieutenant Christopher Sandoval told the Houston Chronicle.
“This is the first time I’ve seen such an investigation of this scale,” Lt. Sandoval said.
Washington told investigators that she did not see the shooter during the abrupt attack, but her teenage daughter told police the gunman was a white male with blue eyes, The New York Times reported.
Surveillance footage captured a man fitting that general description as he stopped next to Washington and her girls at a traffic light while driving a red pickup truck, and police immediately began looking for him.
Black and Woodruffe do not fit the description Washington’s daughter provided – both suspects are black and were not driving a red pickup – but investigators do believe the man she saw was very likely at the scene and may have witnessed what occurred.
“This just went down very quickly,” Sheriff Gonzalez said. “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.”
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 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 is also expected to be charged for the second-grader’s murder.
Jazmine's family said she loved music and dancing, and that she dreamed of becoming a teacher when she grew up, KTRK reported.
"It's not fair," Washington told WLS after her daughter's murder. "He intentionally killed my child for no reason. He didn't even know her. He didn't know who she was."
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner praised law enforcement's dedication and massive response in identifying and apprehending those responsible for Jazmine's death.
"The authorities worked around the clock to find the individual who is allegedly responsible for the heinous and unspeakable act of violence against an innocent child,” Turner said in a statement on Sunday, according to the Houston Chronicle.
“This should serve as a warning to all violent offenders who prey on our community. The color of your skin, how much money you make — these things don’t matter when law enforcement will find you, eventually," Turner said.
Jazmine's death has garnered nationwide attention, and tens of thousands of dollars have been raised in support of the little girl's family.
On Jan. 3, NBA legend-turned-sports analyst Shaquille O'Neal and Houston Police Officer Kenneth Miles delivered a check to Jazmine's family to cover the cost of her funeral, CNN reported.
Meanwhile, anti-police activist Shaun King claimed he had raised a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Jazmine's killers. An unidentified tipster responded to King, giving him information which he forwarded to the sheriff and actually led to the arrest of Jazmine's killers.
Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins pledged to donate $29,000 to help pay for her funeral expenses, The New York Times reported.
A GoFundMe account had raised over $81,000 as of Monday morning.