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Prosecutor Says Jazmine Barnes Murder Was Caused By Mistaken Identity

Eric Black Jr., who’s charged with capital murder, and another person who rode with him thought they were attacking people they fought with at a club hours before the shooting.

Harris County Sheriff’s Office homicide investigators have filed a capital murder charge against Eric Black Jr., 20, for the Dec. 30 shooting death of 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes.

A prosecutor working on the Jazmine Barnes murder case said Monday the December 30 fatal shooting of the 7-year-old girl in East Harris County was motivated by a case of mistaken identity.

Eric Black Jr., the only person who has been charged so far, had his first court hearing Monday. Black, who is African-American and 20-years-old, was arrested Saturday during a traffic stop. Prosecutors allege that he told investigators he was driving the SUV from which an unidentified passenger fired at Barnes, her three sisters and mother, LaPorsha Washington, as they were on their way to a grocery store.

According to prosecutor Samantha Knecht, Black and another person who was riding with him thought they were attacking people whom they had fought with at a club hours earlier. Knecht declined to comment about the second suspect.

Authorities have declined to name the suspected shooter or say whether he has been arrested, but Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said he is also African-American.

Based on the family’s account of what happened, authorities initially believed that a white man in a red pickup truck was behind the attack. But they later received a tip that sent the case in a new direction from Shaun King, a civil rights activist who writes about racial issues and has a large social media following. The tip implicated two African-American men in the shooting.

Gonzalez said there was, in fact, a red pickup truck driven by a white man seen at a stoplight just before the shooting, but the driver didn’t appear to have been involved. The sheriff said it was dark, the shooting happened quickly, and the red truck was probably the last thing seen by Barnes’ family. He said authorities believe Barnes’ family has been truthful during the investigation.

Throughout the investigation, Gonzalez stressed that he and his investigators would not stop working on behalf of Barnes. Activists and elected officials praised him and other investigators for their efforts.

Deric Muhammad, an organizer of a rally that took place on Saturday in Houston to demand “Justice for Jazmine,” commended Gonzalez for working with the community to collect evidence that led to Black’s arrest.

“We are still heartbroken at the thought of a 7-year-old innocent child losing her life in such a violent way,” Muhammad said in a statement. “We are no less heartbroken that those person(s) currently charged with this homicide are Black; not White.”

Gonzalez cautioned that authorities were still investigating, but said: “At this point, it does not appear it was related to race.”

Prosecutors said the 9 mm handgun they believe was used in the shooting was recovered from Black’s home.

Alvin Nunnery, who is Black’s lawyer, didn’t speak to the media after the hearing and didn’t immediately reply to a call seeking comment.

News 88.7’s Florian Martin reported for NPR’s “All Things Considered” Monday on the latest developments on the case, including an interview with an expert who addressed the initial misidentification by the eyewitnesses. You can listen to his story here:

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