'Someone was falsely accused': Jazmine Barnes' family regrets hate crime cries

HOUSTON – On Friday, contrition could be heard in the voice of the great aunt of Jazmine Barnes.

“We apologize. We apologize,” Mary Buffin said. “The thing that’s bothering me is that someone was falsely accused.”

Buffin is referring to the whirlwind that has followed her 7-year-old niece's death last month.

Barnes was killed in a drive-by shooting that grabbed the attention of the nation mainly because of the gunman's description -- which was provided by Laporsha Washington, Barnes' mother, and her sisters.

They described the shooter as a white man wearing a hooded sweatshirt driving a red truck. At the time, it was believed that the man they described shot at Washington and her daughters as they drove on the Beltway feeder road, near Wallisville Road in northeast Harris County, before 7 a.m. on Dec. 30, 2018.

A police sketch shows the man accused in the shooting death of Jazmine Barnes.

Washington publicly said she believed the shooting was a hate crime.

The investigation into the shooting proved that the crime was not racial in nature, after two black men were arrested and charged in connection with Barnes' death.

Harris County Sheriff's Office investigators now believe the man in the sketch was a witness who sped off in his red truck in an attempt to avoid gunfire.

What led Washington to believe they were shot at because they were black?

"When we went to the hospital, that wasn’t crossing her mind,” Buffin said.

Buffin said once word about the shooting became news, it went viral. From there, activists swarmed her family -- listening to Washington and her daughters’ description of a white gunman. They told them the shooting likely was a hate crime.

“We asked that they would hold off on that,” Buffin said.

Buffin said she suggested for everyone to wait before jumping to a conclusion, but she said activists were sure it was a hate crime.

Tips from so-called witnesses even implicated a man whose family received threats as a result.

About the Author:

Emmy and Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. NOLA born and bred, though #HoustonStrong, with stops in Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut in along the way.