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Alleged driver in shooting death of 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes to be held without bail

Posted at 6:20 AM, Jan 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-07 14:49:59-05

The suspected driver in the shooting death of 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes will be held without bail, a Texas judge ruled Monday.

Eric Black Jr., 20, did not speak during the five-minute probable cause hearing in Harris County court. Wearing a yellow jail jumpsuit, his hands and feet shackled, he sat in the jurors' box during the proceeding with at least a half-dozen deputies in tactical vests standing before him.

The Harris County Sheriff's Office said Saturday it filed capital murder charges against the 20-year-old, but it was not clear if he has been formally charged by the court. Black was not required to enter a plea Monday.

His attorney, Alvin Nunnery, entered a motion saying Black invoked his Fifth Amendment rights and should no longer be interviewed by investigators. The motion was granted.

Prosecutors said Black has confessed to driving the car from which Jazmine was shot December 30 in Houston, and a gun found at his home was consistent with eight shell casings found at the scene. Black and the suspected shooter mistook the car carrying Jazmine for a car belonging to someone with whom the pair had had an earlier altercation at a club, prosecutors said.

Black's mother wept and clutched a family member's hand during the hearing. Black mouthed "I love you" to family members as he left the courtroom.

Police: Traffic stop led to confession

Black was pulled over for failing to use a turn signal Saturday night and was arrested for marijuana possession, Texas authorities said.

Thanks to an earlier anonymous tip, police learned Black might have been involved in the 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 as "L.W.," shot at the vehicle after mistaking it for another one.

During questioning, Black acknowledged he drove the vehicle used in the shooting while a man in the passenger seat opened fire, according to an affidavit.

Black also said the gun used in the shooting was at his home, the affidavit said. He gave officers permission to search his home, where they found a 9 mm pistol consistent with shell casings recovered from the scene.

The fate of "L.W." is not clear.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said he believes two suspects were involved in the shooting.

The sheriff declined to name the second person, citing the investigation. Prosecutors identified Larry Woodruffe as the second suspect in a court hearing Saturday, the Houston Chronicle reported .

Jail records indicate Woodruffe is in custody on drug possession charges. He has not been charged in connection with the shooting.

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," family attorney S. Lee Merritt said. "We all have a role (in) getting justice for any child of gun violence."