Driver held in shooting death of Jazmine Barnes in Houston

By Allen Cone
Eric Black Jr., 20, has been charged with capital murder in the death of 7-year-old Jazmine Banes. Photo courtesy Harris County Sheriff's Office
Eric Black Jr., 20, has been charged with capital murder in the death of 7-year-old Jazmine Banes. Photo courtesy Harris County Sheriff's Office

Jan. 6 (UPI) -- One man was arrested Sunday as the getaway driver in the shooting death of 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes of Houston one week ago in a case described by investigators as "mistaken identity" rather than a hate crime.

Eric Black Jr., 20, was charged with capital murder after being taken into custody during a traffic stop based on evidence that corroborated a tip, the Harris County Sheriff's Office said in a news release posted at 12:41 a.m CST.


Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said a second individual has been linked to the slaying but didn't name him during an afternoon news conference.

"We are still trying to verify some information and this investigation is ongoing," Gonzlez said

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The tip on the driver and shooter were relayed from a social activist and writer.

"I want to thank again Shaun King for his activism and help and raising awareness and the monies that were put forward to be able to generate those calls," Gonzalez said about the reward.


Prosecutors said during Black's 5 a.m. hearing the same tipster identified Larry Woodruffe, 24, as the shooter in the Dec. 30 drive-by killing. He also was taken into custody early Sunday and is being held in lieu of $100,000 bail on a drug charge from a separate traffic stop. The judge noted during Woodruffe's appearance he is suspect in a capital murder case.

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Black is being held without bail and will be formally charged Monday.

Jazmine's mother was driving the child and her three sisters on a highway when at approximately 6:50 a.m. they were fired upon by someone in another vehicle.

The sheriff's office said all evidence gathered so far supports investigators' strong belief that she and her family were innocent victims.

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"The source said the suspects thought the complainant's vehicle was some other person's vehicle that they had seen earlier in the night and that they shot the car by mistake," according to the complaint. "The source said that they did not realize the vehicle that they had shot into was the complainant's vehicle until seeing it on the news later in the day."

Black was driving a rental vehicle of unknown description and not a red pickup truck as originally thought by investigators, according to the complaint. And he was driving another vehicle, the Kia, at the time of his arrest.


Barnes was shot in the head, and her mother, LaPorsha Washington, was shot in the arm.

"She said, 'Momma, Jazmine's not moving. She's not talking.' I turned around and my 7-year-old was shot in the head," Washington, 30, said in recounting a comment by one of her daughters to KTRK-TV.

Investigators released a sketch of the suspect, who was depicted as a white man in his 40s. The two suspects are black. Authorities now believe the pickup driver, from which the sketch was made, was actually just a fleeing witness.

"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," Gonzalez said early Sunday. "Our work is not finished, but I believe the people of Harris County can take comfort in knowing we have made great progress."

Prosecutors were able to ask for a charge of capital murder because the victim was under 10. Black can be held just as culpable as the actual gunman under a Texas law that holds accomplices equally responsible for slayings.

"Now my baby has gotten justice," Christopher Cevilla, the girl's father, said during a news conference. "Now we can properly put her to rest without having to put her to rest and we're still on a manhunt looking for a suspect."


The funeral is scheduled for Tuesday.

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