HOUSTON – Two men were taken into custody Saturday in connection with the shooting death of 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes last weekend, and prosecutors said the car Jazmine was riding in was targeted by mistake.
Eric Black Jr., 20, has been charged with capital murder in connection with the case. Larry Woodruffe, 24, has been identified by sources as the second suspect in the case, but he has not been formally charged in connection with the Dec. 30 shooting.
Both Black and Woodruffe appeared in court early Sunday.
During Black’s hearing, prosecutors said that a tipster identified the suspects, saying that Woodruffe was the person who fired the shots. Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said the tip was relayed to him from an activist in New York who has offered a $100,000 reward for information about the case.
“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,” prosecutors said as they read from Black’s probable cause document during the hearing. “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.”
According to prosecutors, eight 9 mm shell casings were found at the scene near the Beltway 8 feeder road and Wallisville Road, where the shooting happened. A search of Black’s home turned up a 9 mm pistol that was consistent with the weapon used in the shooting, prosecutors said.
Investigators said Black admitted to his role in the shooting after he was arrested during a traffic stop, during which authorities noticed marijuana in his car.
Woodruffe was arrested during a separate traffic stop, and a bottle containing 124 Xanax pills were found during that stop, according to prosecutors.
The vehicle that Black was driving when he was arrested was a rental car, prosecutors said. It was a different rental from the one he was driving the day Jazmine was killed, according to prosecutors.
Black was ordered held in jail without bond.
Woodruffe has been charged with possession of a controlled substance. He was ordered held in jail on $100,000 bond.
What about the driver of the red pickup?
Neither of the men fit the description that was provided by investigators after the shooting.
Gonzalez said it now appears that the man in the red pickup, whose description was released after the shooting, was most likely a witness and not involved in the shooting.
"Perhaps that was the last thing they remembered prior to the mayhem," Gonzalez said.
The sheriff said investigators still want to speak with the driver of the pickup as part of the ongoing investigation.
Gonzalez said that at this time it does not appear that the suspects knew the family. He said the family was not involved in anything nefarious that would have resulted in the shooting.
Mayor issues statement
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner issued the following statement about the arrests:
"I want to thank the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and all law enforcement for their diligent work to identify and arrest a suspect in Jazmine Barnes’ senseless murder.
"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.
"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.
"I also want to acknowledge the outpouring of support from across the country for the victim’s family and our community. It provided law enforcement with a sense of urgency and made Jazmine’s loved ones know they weren’t alone in their time of grief. We share their deep sense of loss and anger.
"It’s now my hope that justice will prevail and that Jazmine’s family will find some comfort knowing the alleged gunman is off the street."