After being pulled over for failing to use a turn signal, the alleged getaway driver in the killing of 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes is expected to be charged with capital murder Monday.
Eric Black Jr., 20, was arrested Saturday during a traffic stop for marijuana possession, Texas authorities said.
But thanks to an earlier tip from an anonymous source, police learned Black might have been involved in the December 30 drive-by shooting of Jazmine, who was shot in the head while riding in a car with her three sisters and their mother.
The anonymous tipster said Black and another person, identified in court as “L.W.,” shot at the family’s vehicle after mistaking it for another one.
During questioning by homicide investigators, Black admitted that he drove the vehicle used in the shooting while a man in the passenger seat opened fire, according to an affidavit read aloud in court Sunday.
Black also said the gun used in the shooting was at his home, the affidavit said. He gave officers permission to search for the gun in his home, where they found a 9mm pistol consistent with shell casings recovered from the scene.
But the fate of “L.W.” is not clear.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said he believes two suspects were involved in the shooting, which was likely a tragic case of “mistaken identity.”
The sheriff declined to name the second person, citing the pending investigation. But prosecutors identified Larry Woodruffe as the second suspect in a court hearing for Black on Saturday morning, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Jail records indicate that Woodruffe is in custody on drug possession charges. But he has not been charged in connection with the shooting.
How the suspect descriptions changed
Before Black’s arrest, police released a sketch of the suspect, which included descriptions from Jazmine’s mother and three sisters. Authorities said the sketch depicted a white man in his 40s.
But Black is 20 years old and African-American. Another man who was arrested but has not been publicly identified is also black, said Jazmine’s mother, LaPorsha Washington.
“The detectives stopped by last night … they said they had two guys and that the gentlemen were black,” Washington told CNN affiliate KTRK.
S. Lee Merritt, an attorney advising the Barnes family, said the update from police “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.
Regardless of any confusion, the family “wanted the right person to be convicted — not a white person,” Merritt said.
Widespread support for the family keeps growing
Over the weekend, hundreds of mourners gathered outside the Walmart near where Jazmine was killed.
Washington thanked everyone who came to honor her daughter, whose birthday is next month, she said.
“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.”
More than 2,800 people have donated to a GoFundMe set up for Jazmine’s funeral expenses and family.
Jazmine will also be honored Tuesday in a “Justice for Jazmine Barnes Community Rally” honoring homicide victims in 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.
“We often don’t emphasize the death of black and brown children,” Merritt said.
“We all have a role (in) getting justice for any child of gun violence.”