HOUSTON (AP) — Texas authorities filed a capital murder charge Tuesday against a black man they believe fired the bullet that killed a 7-year-old black girl in a drive-by shooting her family initially believed was racially motivated.
Prosecutors believe 24-year-old Larry D. Woodruffe killed Jazmine Barnes on Dec. 30 as she and her family drove to a grocery store in Houston.
The driver of the SUV Woodruffe rode in, 20-year-old Eric Black Jr. has also been charged with capital murder. Both suspects remain jailed.
These undated images provided the Harris County Sheriff’s Office shows Larry D. Woodruffe, left, and Eric Black Jr., right. (Harris County Sheriff’s Office via AP)
Woodruffe was charged as Jazmine’s funeral took place Tuesday afternoon, attended by hundreds of people at a Houston church. The girl’s killing prompted an outpouring of support for her family from celebrities and ordinary people across the country.
Prosecutors say Woodruffe and Black mistakenly thought they were attacking people they’d fought at a club hours earlier when they shot at Jazmine and her family.
The family had described the shooter as a white man driving a red pickup truck, prompting concerns that her death was a hate crime.
Based on the family’s description, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office circulated a composite sketch of a white man possibly being the shooter. But the sheriff’s office later received a tip from civil rights activist Shaun King that sent the case in a new direction. The tip implicated Woodruffe and Black in the shooting.
A mourner approaches the casket of Jazmine Barnes during a viewing ceremony before the memorial services on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019 at the Community of Faith Church in Houston. Barnes was fatally shot, Dec. 30, 2019, while in a car with her family during an attack that investigators say appears to be a case of mistaken identity. (Marie De Jesus/Houston Chronicle via AP)
The sheriff’s office corroborated the tip and took Black and Woodruffe into custody on Saturday.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said he believes the family’s initial description of the shooter was sincere and the man in the red truck was likely a bystander who left the scene of the shooting.
While Black was charged on Sunday with capital murder, Woodruffe was held in the county jail on a drug charge while the sheriff’s office prepared a capital murder charge against him.
Court records did not list an attorney for Woodruffe.
Court records show Woodruffe has a long criminal record, including arrests for assault on a family member, drug possession and being a felon in possession of a firearm. In one case, he pleaded guilty in 2017 to trying to choke a woman he was dating.
The Harris County District Attorney’s Office said it will decide later whether to pursue the death penalty against either Black or Woodruffe.
Jazmine was remembered during her more than two-hour funeral at The Community of Faith church in Houston for a sweet spirit, her smile and as a person who always wanted to give hugs and help others.
Jazmine’s white casket was draped with purple flowers. Purple was Jazmine’s favorite color and many of those at the service were dressed in purple.
During the funeral, Jazmine’s mother, LaPorsha Washington, read a poem one of her aunts had written from the point of view of the little girl.
“I’m writing this from heaven where I dwell with God above, where there are no more tears, pain or sadness, just eternal love. Please do not be unhappy just because I’m just outside of sight. Remember that I am with you every morning, noon and night,” a tearful Washington said as she read the poem.
Many of the speakers at the funeral said they hoped Jazmine’s death would help fuel efforts to combat gun violence.
“I just want to believe that all of us will be better, that all of us will work harder, all of us will strive to make this world a safer place for our children,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.
Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter: https://twitter.com/juanlozano70