Do Jazmine Barnes shooting suspects have gang ties?

HOUSTON – Allegations of gang ties for one of the suspects accused in the shooting death of 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes are being bandied about, but are they true?

Larry Woodruffe, 24, and Eric Black Jr., 20, are charged with capital murder.

Woodruffe has an extensive criminal history.

Court records show Woodruffe was sentenced in January 2017 to two years in prison for assaulting a family member. That same year he was released under mandatory supervision, and by November he was charged with being a felon in possession of a gun.

Court records show he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge in the weapons case and was sentenced to nine months in county jail. 

READ: What to know about the threat of gangs in Texas

When Woodruffe pleaded guilty in the weapons case, he was two months shy of completing his sentence on the assault charge, according to court records.

But are Woodruffe and Black gang members?

Houston Police Officers' Union President Joe Gamaldi tweeted Monday that Woodruffe is a documented gang member, saying, "How does someone who is a documented gang member, convicted felon for domestic violence, on parole, only get 9 months in jail for being in poss of a firearm w/31 round magazine?? That someone was Larry Woodruffe and he murdered 7 yr old #JazmineBarnes in cold blood #brokensystem."



Gamaldi tweeted a photo Tuesday of Woodruffe throwing up what he says are gang signs, claiming, "This is the Dirtbag that killed #JazmineBarnes Take a good look before people start framing him as some misunderstood youth, here he is flashing gang signs and below is his extensive criminal history at the ripe old age of 24. He has no place in our community! #JusticeForJazmine."



In an interview with KPRC2 on Tuesday, Gamaldi said there's no reason Woodruffe should have been on the streets.

"There's plenty of blame to go around. The fact of the matter is we need to stop treating our criminal justice system like a factory. Everyone needs to slow down and look at these individual suspects. And when you see someone who's a documented gang member, who's a repeat offender, who's shown to have violent tendencies, throw the book at him. That's not the type of person you give a break to. Make sure he spends a lot of time in prison because these are our crime drivers. These are the people who are victimizing the hardworking people in this city," Gamaldi said.

He urged citizens to call the district attorney's office and local judges to help keep criminals off the streets and help law enforcement officers.

"(Police officers) are risking their lives. They’re working their tails off out there, short-handed, and we just see these criminals go through the revolving door and they’re back out again. It’s very disheartening," Gamaldi said.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott jumped into the conversation Wednesday, tweeting, "#JazmineBarnes— the innocent 7 year old girl gunned down in Houston appears to have been killed by a gang member. There are too many gangs in Houston. We must expand the Texas Anti-Gang Task Force in Houston to clean our streets of this trash and restore safety."

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez then responded in a tweet, saying, "Absolutely gangs continue to be a growing problem. It is here and it’s something we’re trying to deal with. The landscape is constantly shifting. While enforcement is crucial, let’s not forget the need to invest in prevention & early intervention."

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo didn't directly address the gang allegations in Barnes' case during an availability on Wednesday.

He spoke in broad terms about the gang population and the dangers it poses to the city.

"We have in the city of Houston about 20,000 registered gang members. When I was in California, Los Angeles, at the time we had 50,000 gang members. When you look at our city and you compare a city this size with the level of resources we have, most of the folks that are being impacted by gangs are really other gang members, I think that's very safe to say in terms of the danger they pose," Acevedo said.

Woodruffe's former attorney, Maverick Ray, was hired to represent him in February 2018 on a felony weapon possession in Harris County. Ray said Woodruffe was always polite and calm.

"He was always very respectful. Very few of times in this profession am I called sir and I can remember very specifically Larry Woodruffe always addressed me as, 'Sir,'" Ray said.

He said he wants to see the facts of the capital murder case play out.

"He never showed any violent tendencies that I saw and I think for the longest time we thought it was a white male with blue eyes that was the killer, and I know that definitely wasn’t Larry," Ray said. "I did get a chance to read the probable cause statement on the case and I saw where Larry definitely denied committing the new allegations and I hope that everyone presumes him innocent and let the system play out."

When asked about Woodruffe's gang ties, the Harris County District Attorney's Office issued a statement to KPRC2 that read, "We are limiting our comment to what we say in the courthouse."


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