After an intense, week-long manhunt, Texas police have arrested a suspect in the drive-by killing of 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes.
Eric Black Jr. faces a charge of capital murder in Jazmine’s death. The second-grader was riding in a car with her mother and three sisters when she was shot in the head the morning of December 30.
Black was arrested based on a tip and has admitted to taking part in the shooting, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office said overnight.
Before the arrest, police had released a sketch of the suspect compiled from descriptions from Jazmine’s mother and three sisters. Authorities said the sketch depicted a white man in his 40s.
But Black, the man facing a charge of capital murder, is 20 years old and black.
S. Lee Merritt, an attorney advising the Barnes family, said the arrest “was welcome news to the family.”
“At the same time, it was a major shock to the family,” Merritt told CNN on Sunday morning. “Up until this point, at least four independent witnesses and a composite sketch had identified the primary suspect as a 40-something-year-old white male.”
While it may be difficult to understand the discrepancy, “it is imaginable that witnesses confused a fleeing bystander for the actual shooter,” Merritt tweeted.
A possible case of mistaken identity
Shortly after Jazmine was killed, both the sheriff’s office and Jazmine’s mother said the shooting seemed unprovoked. Just as the suspect evaded authorities, so did the motive.
Now authorities say the gunman may have been trying to shoot someone else.
“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,” the sheriff’s office said.
“Investigators are continuing to pursue evidence that could possibly lead to other suspects being charged in this case.”
How a morning coffee run turned tragic
On the morning of Jazmine’s death, she and her sisters were still in their pajamas as their mom drove to Joe V’s Smart Shop to get supplies for breakfast.
At about 7 a.m., a man drove up next to their car and opened fire, Jazmine’s mother LaPorsha Washington said.
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 injured.
But minutes later, Jazmine was pronounced dead.
An outpouring of support
Hundreds of mourners gathered Saturday outside the Walmart near where Jazmine was killed.
Washington, still recovering from her gunshot wound, thanked everyone who came to honor her daughter. 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.”
The tragedy of Jazmine’s death has made a nationwide impact.
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.