54ºF

New leads pour in after sketch, surveillance video released in 7-year-old's death

HOUSTON – The search for 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes' killer continued Friday.

Investigators revisited the crime scene and spoke to neighbors about what they may have seen or heard the morning Jazmine was shot to death.

A composite sketch of the suspected gunman was released Thursday. Jazmine's sisters and her mother were consulted for the sketch.

Investigators believe the man in the sketch shot at the vehicle Jazmine’s mother, Laporsha Washington, was driving on the morning of Dec. 30, 2018.

All four of her daughters were with her when a man in a red truck fired into the driver's side window, according to authorities.

Jazmine was shot in the head about 7 a.m. Sunday as her family’s vehicle was traveling on the Beltway 8 feeder road at Wallisville Road.

A surveillance photo shows the truck used in the shooting death of Jazmine Barnes alongside a police sketch of the suspect.

The investigation has reached its fifth day. Authorities have been working with activist Shaun King, and both have steadily been releasing more information as they sort through tips.

King has also been actively sharing details from the case on Twitter, and on Friday morning, he shared that he was “personally documenting and tracking at least 20 potential suspects.”

A reward offered by King for any tips that lead to an arrest started at $25,000 and has already reached $100,000, thanks to donations from private parties.

Authorities set up a command post in the parking lot of the Galena Park Independent School District administration building Friday. It will be there indefinitely.

New surveillance video of the truck being sought in connection with the case and then sketch of the man suspected to be the shooter were released Wednesday.

Investigators said a red, four-door pickup pulled alongside the vehicle and someone in the truck began firing. The shooter was initially described by investigators as a bearded white man, possibly in his 40s, who was wearing a red, hooded sweatshirt, but Thursday afternoon, the family clarified the description. They said the man had stubble, like a 5 o’clock shadow, and was wearing a black hoodie.

Since the release of the sketch, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said his office has fielded numerous tips. None of the tips have provided a positive ID on the suspect, but he is hopeful.

"We just want to continue to urge the public to come forward with tips and any information, especially if we may have missed something and someone was in the area or heard or saw the shooting itself. That would be a remarkable tip," Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said the tips mean a lot as authorities work to crack the case.

"I'm out here myself to assist my teammates, doing everything we can to find justice for Jazmine," Gonzalez said. "We've got a pretty large contingent of our team out here just trying to pursue leads, tips, create our own leads, as well."

The tips also pose a challenge, according to Gonzalez, because online -- especially on social media -- there has been a lot of speculation and comparison. Many people have compared the sketch to mug shots that appear similar.

According to Gonzalez, the Harris County Sheriff's Office's main concern is to put a name to a face.

"Right now our focus is ID'ing who this individual is, who this coward is," Gonzalez said. "(Our priority is) ID'ing this truck ASAP, and we are also working every other lead we could develop, including previous cases."

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee spoke Friday near the scene of the shooting. She made a call for a federal task force to find Jazmine's killer.

Washington said she is grateful for all the support the case has received.

"Everything makes a difference,” Washington said. “Because the more y'all put us out there, the more they'll feel our pain, and they're going to want to find this guy."

Barnes’ father, Christopher Cevilla, said, “Justice will prevail, and I will be leading the charge.” He said he is confident the gunman will be brought to justice, and he won’t allow the case to go cold.

The shooting is unnerving to neighbors who live near the crime scene.

“It shouldn’t have happened that way. Then to stop on the side of the road and still keep shooting at them, it’s like, there’s kids in the car. They didn’t care, and I don’t think it was right,” said Juanita Cruz, an area resident. “It’s too close to the heart. Too close to home. Regardless of whoever it was, it was still somebody’s baby, an innocent baby.”

Others worry because they have children who live in the area.

"I have my daughter. She's with me all the time. Kinda bothers me," Kelvin Beltrip said.

The community is throwing its support behind Jazmine's family and the effort to find her killer. A community rally is planned to take place at noon Saturday. It will be held in the Walmart parking lot near the scene of the shooting.

The family will say a final farewell to Jazmine on Tuesday, when her funeral will be held at Green House International Church.

A viewing will take place at 10 a.m. The funeral is set for noon. A balloon release will follow the funeral.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 713-222-8477.