HOUSTON - For the last week, people in Houston had been on the lookout for a white man driving a red pickup truck who was said to have shot and killed a little girl. So why are two black men now arrested and prosecutors saying those two black men are responsible for 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes’ murder?
Harris County Sheriff's investigators now say the white man first suspected of being Jazmine’s killer was also an innocent bystander. The detectives believe the man who was behind the wheel of that red pickup just happened to be driving near the family seconds before another car came along and opened fire.
Surrounded by Harris County Sheriff's deputies, 20-year-old Eric Black Jr. was walked into court to face a Capital Murder charge for the death of 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes.
"This was a case of mistaken identity. They fired into the vehicle believing it was in retaliation for an altercation that happened earlier in the night," explains Prosecutor Samantha Knecht. Knecht says Black and another man had been at a night club, had a run in with someone and mistakenly thought Jazmine and her family were those guys.
In Black's Probable Cause hearing Sunday, it was revealed an anonymous source ultimately emailed the information to Sheriff Ed Gonzalez.
"The source said they did not realize the vehicle they shot into was the complainant's vehicle until seeing it on the news later in the day."
In a Probable Cause hearing for Larry Woodruffe, who's being held on a drug charge, the judge was told, "He's also a suspect in a Capital Murder investigation."
According to court records, Black has confessed, saying he was driving and Woodruffe was the shooter.
"Defendant Black stated LW began firing out the passenger side of the vehicle," the judge was told in Woodruffe’s Probable Cause hearing.
So why was the gunman thought to be a white man in a red pickup truck?
Well, Washington's daughters saw that man stopped with them at a red light. Moments later, someone was shooting up their car. Add to that there are unsolved shootings that occurred near that area last year when a white man reportedly opened fire on random cars and some community leaders thought a crazed killer was targeting blacks.
"Anyone who thinks I was trying to stir up race relations, they don't know me. Contrary to what people may think, it wasn't about finding a white person. It was about finding the right person. We just were erroneously informed that the right person was white," explains community leader Deric Muhammad.
Investigators now believe the man in the red pick up didn’t have anything to do with the shooting.
The pistol that is believed to have been used to kill Jazmine has been recovered. According to detectives, Eric Black told them it was at his house and they recovered a 9mm, the same caliber of shell casings recovered from the scene. Black is being held without bail. Woodruffe’s bond is set at $100,000, which will change if his drug charge is upgraded to Capital Murder.
Texas law holds the driver and the shooter to the same level of accountability.
As for what we know about 24-year-old Larry Woodruffe, he’s a father of three kids, has worked as a janitor but is currently unemployed, and has multiple felony convictions. This charge is the most recent from April 2018, Attempted Possession of a Firearm by a Felon. In 2017, according to the Probable Cause hearing, Woodruffe was arrested after putting his hands around a woman’s throat and choking her. Woodruffe was charged with Assault of a Family Member and sentenced to two years in prison. He also has a prior family violence charge from 2015, a weapons arrest from 2013 and several misdemeanor convictions according to court records.