Harris County

Sheriff Is Working With Texas DPS And ATF On Investigation Of Killing Of 7 Year-Old Girl

Investigators continue searching for the driver of the red, four-door pickup captured on surveillance video shortly before the shooting that killed Jazmine Barnes.

This photo provided by the Harris County Sheriff’s Office shows an image taken from surveillance video of a pickup whose driver, according to authorities, fired several shots into a car carrying a family, killing a 7-year-old girl and wounding the child’s mother, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018, in the Houston area.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said Wednesday his department is fully focused on investigating the killing of 7 year-old Jazmine Barnes and is working with the Texas Department of Public Safety and federal agencies, such as the ATF.

Barnes was killed last Sunday morning while she was riding in a car with her mother and three sisters in the eastern outskirts of Houston. According to the investigation, a person driving a red, four-door pick up truck pulled alongside her family’s car and fired into it. 

Barnes died at the scene and her mother, LaPorsha Washington, suffered a gunshot wound to the arm. Jazmine’s three sisters were also in the car and one of them was hurt by shattered glass.

Gonzalez has declined to speculate on what prompted the shooting, describing it as “totally unprovoked.” The sheriff’s office has asked people who live nearby to review their surveillance videos.

During a press conference held Wednesday afternoon, the Sheriff said “additional patrols” have been deployed in the area where the shooting occurred.

Gonzalez said investigators are receiving tips and information about possible eyewitnesses and added his department hopes to have a composite sketch of the shooter this week.

The Sheriff also noted that, initially, the shooting seems to be random. However, some local activists have alleged the shooting was racially motivated and the family was targeted because they are African-American.

A $50,000 reward for a tip that would lead to an arrest has been offered by Lee Merritt, a national civil rights attorney with an office in Dallas, and New-York-based activist and writer Shaun King.

Merritt said Wednesday that he understands his and King’s high profiles as activists means they will reach a lot of people. Merritt said they will pass on any leads to the Sheriff’s Office.

A distraught Washington told KTRK-TV from her hospital bed that the gunman sped up after firing into her car, only to pull in front and slow down before firing again. “He intentionally killed my child for no reason,” she said. “He didn’t even know her, he didn’t know who she was.”

Gonzalez said the shooting occurred on a service road as the family was heading to a store.

The gunman was described as a white bearded man in his 40s wearing a red hoodie.

Jazmine’s father, Christopher Cevilla, said his daughter was a loving and caring girl who was “very smart in school.”

The Sheldon Independent School District said in a statement that Jazmine was a second-grader at Monahan Elementary in Houston. The school district said additional counselors will be at the elementary when students return on Tuesday. The district asked parents to tell their children about Jazmine’s death.

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