Harris County officials share latest on investigation into death of Jazmine Barnes

Eric Black Jr. charged with capital murder; another suspect detained

Eric Black (left) and Larry Woodruffe (right) are seen in mugshots released by authorities on Jan. 6, 2019. Both men are suspects in the slaying of Jazmine Barnes.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas – Authorities in Harris County have charged 20-year-old Eric Black Jr. with capital murder in connection with the death of 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes, the Harris County Sheriff's Office confirmed Saturday.

The Harris County Sheriff's Office took to Twitter early Sunday morning to share the news of an arrest, which comes a week after Barnes was shot to death while riding in a car with her sisters and mother.

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KSAT's sister station in Houston, KPRC, attended Black's first appearance before a Harris County judge. There, authorities revealed that Jazmine and her mother were shot by mistake and that authorities learned from an anonymous tip that Black's passenger, only identified by his initials, L.W., fired the deadly shots.

“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," officials said during Black's first appearance. "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."

KPRC reported that Black was the driver of the car and that L.W. was in the passenger's seat. According to facts read aloud at Black's first appearance, Black told investigators he had been driving a dark-colored Kia Sportage rental car when L.W. saw Jazmine's mother's car and began shooting at the car, thinking it was someone else.

Jazmine Barnes

After the shooting, Black told authorities that he obtained a new rental vehicle.

Authorities said during the initial appearance early Sunday morning that Black told investigators where they could find the firearm used in the shooting and consented to a search of his home. There, deputies found a 9 mm pistol.

After the shooting, Harris County authorities released video of a red truck they believed to be involved in the shooting, but Black said he was in a dark-colored Kia Sportage rental car, not a red pickup. 

While some have pointed out that Black does not match the suspect description given in the aftermath of the shooting, journalist and activist Shaun King said that the man in the red truck was seen by four "credible independent eyewitnesses," but that it now "appears that man was an innocent bystander who fled, actually fearing for his life as well. He was not the shooter."

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez echoed King's statements during a press conference Sunday, saying that authorities don't think that Jazmine's mother, LaPorcha Washington, or her children were acting maliciously when providing authorities with a description.

"These were also young children in the car. It's a combination of things," Gonzalez said. "Again, I'm not going to question -- I think it was sincere information that came forward. There was no nefarious motive to give a different description."

Gonzalez said there was, in fact, a red truck there during the shooting, but the driver was likely just a witness. Gonzalez is asking that driver to come forward to help authorities piece together what happened.

Washington described to KPRC in detail what happened Dec. 30, explaining that she was on a coffee run with her four daughters when the shooting happened.

"As we passed Walmart, I had turned over and asked my girls, 'Was Joe V's at this light or the next light?' and my daughter said, 'Momma, I think it's at the next light,'" Washington explained to KPRC. "As I turned around and looked back at the street, I heard shots start firing and they came through my window.

"Broke my glass, hit me in my arm. They sped off in front of us, and the truck slowed down and continued to fire as he was in front of us, and then he sped off."

Authorities in Harris County said they recovered eight spent shell casings from the scene.

Black was taken into custody Saturday after authorities conducted a traffic stop on Black for making a lane change without signaling, according to authorities. When Black was asked to show his license and registration, he reached for the glove compartment, where a deputy saw a plastic bag of marijuana, according to Harris County officials.

Authorities also reported finding additional marijuana on Black's person. Black was later interviewed by homicide investigators and confessed to his role in killing Jazmine, according to authorities.

L.W. has not yet been identified by the Sheriff's Office, but King and other outlets have named the person as Larry Woodruffe.

Woodruffe is currently in custody on a charge of possession of a controlled substance between 28 and 200 grams and has not been formally charged in connection with Jazmine's death.

Gonzalez thanked celebrities, including King, Shaquille O'Neal and the Houston Texans' DeAndre Hopkins for shedding light on the case, giving it a national platform. Gonzalez said the tip that led to the arrests was made to King and that King personally relayed the tip to him.

The case sparked national outrage as many speculated the crime was motivated by race. While authorities have proven otherwise through their investigation, Gonzalez said Jazmine's death brought up topics that need to be discussed, including race and gun violence.