The search for a suspect in the apparently random murder of 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes in Houston is intensifying, with a $100,000 reward raised with the help of writer and activist Shaun King and civil rights lawyer Lee Merritt for any information leading to an arrest.
Barnes was killed early Sunday morning when a man, who authorities described as a white, bearded man in his forties, pulled his red pick-up truck alongside the car of LaPorsha Washington, who was driving four of her daughters to the store for juice. The man took out a gun, and opened fire directly at the family. Washington was injured, and Barnes died at the scene.
The family believes the killing was racially motivated — Barnes’ family is Black.
“That’s why I was brought on,” Merritt, who is working with the family, told the Washington Post. “We want to emphasize the racial nature of the attack and that hate-crime charges are appropriate.”
Jazmine Barnes, seven, who was shot and killed while sitting in a car in Harris County, Texas, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018. Photo credit: © Harris County Sheriff’s Office/ZUMA
Merritt tweeted Tuesday that the man who killed Barnes may have done this before — that another Black family in Harris county was ambushed by an unknown white man with a gun in 2017. That shooter is still at large, and activists who became involved with that case discovered at least one other similar prior instance.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said in a press conference Wednesday that his office was working through a large number of tips from the public, but that they did not yet have a clear idea of who the suspect is or why he targeted this family.
As to racial motivation and possible hate crime charges, he said that his office is not ruling it out. “Our focus continues to be on the evidence we have and leads we develop, and then the motive we can enhance and determine once we get those facts,” he said.
Authorities released a photo of the truck they believe belongs to the suspect, and plan to release a sketch of the suspect soon, which was put together with the help of Barnes’ sisters.
A GoFundMe for the funeral expenses has raised over $40,000 in three days, from over 1,600 donors. NFL star DeAndre Hopkins said Thursday that he plans to donate his playoff paycheck this week to Barnes’ family.
“When I see Jazmine Barnes’ face, I see my own daughter,” he tweeted. “On Saturday, I will be playing in your honor, Jazmine.”
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