Texas law enforcement officials are revisiting a cold case that’s similar to the Houston drive-by killing of 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes on Sunday by an unknown white man. The move came after Black activists suggested that the two cases could be linked.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said Wednesday at a news conference that his office would take another look at the unsolved 2017 case in which a white gunman opened fire on a Black driver, the Associated Press reported.
On Thursday, investigators continued their manhunt for the suspect who fired a gun from his red pickup truck into the car Jazmine’s mother was driving at about 7 a.m. as she exited a Walmart parking lot. At least one bullet struck Jazmine in the head. Her mother, LaPorsha Washington, 30, and one of Jazmine’s sisters were injured in the apparently random attack.
About six miles from where Jazmine was gunned down, a white man driving a Ford F-150 pickup truck shot at the car that then-21-year-old A’vonta Williams was driving on Aug. 30, 2017.
Williams, who was going to check on his girlfriend in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, was struck in both legs, according to the Houston Chronicle. His grandmother, a passenger in Williams’s vehicle, was shot in the hip. Williams claimed that the police neglected the case for months and never made an arrest.
“If A’vonta Williams’ shooter had been found, would Jazmine Barnes still be alive?” activist Deric Muhammad asked. “… What are the odds that two Black families were fired upon by a white male in a pickup truck within a one-year time span on the same block?
Gonzalez described Jazmine’s killer as a white male in his 40s with a beard. He is expected to release a composite sketch of the suspect by Thursday.
Activist Shaun King tweeted an updated description of the suspect that he said a confirmed eyewitness sent to him. King’s post added that the killer wore glasses, his beard was trimmed with both black and white hair, and he weighed less than 200 pounds but had a belly.
Gonzalez said at the news conference that his investigators are not focused on whether Jazmine’s killing was a racially motivated hate crime. Instead, they will focus on collecting evidence and developing leads, adding, “We’re not tone deaf to some of the concerns in our community where this could be potentially race related.”
That didn’t go over well with activists.
“We’ve got to call it what it is. Black people are being targeted in this country. Black people are being targeted in this county. Black people are being targeted in this city. So we are thoroughly convinced that the killing of Jazmine Barnes was race related,” Muhammad said.
Meanwhile, King announced that the reward for tips leading to the capture of Jazmine’s killer has increased to $75,000.
Separately, a GoFundMe campaign was launched on Dec. 31 to help Jazmine’s family to cover expenses stemming from the tragedy.