A case of mistaken identity is what led the family of a little girl, Jazmine Barnes, shot dead close Houston Walmart, to believe a white man in a red pickup truck was the gunman, according to police.
CNN reports that according to Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, the act happened so quickly that a red pickup truck was probably the last thing Jazmine’s sisters and her mother, 30-year-old LaPorsha Washington, saw before they were engulfed in gunshots.
The incident occurred on December 30 at around 7 a.m., while it was still dark outside. According to police, Washington’s four girls, ranging in ages from six to 15, were riding in the car while Washington drove. As they approached a stoplight, a white man driving a red truck pulled up beside them. Within seconds, someone started shooting at their car, injuring Washington and her 6-year-old, and killing Jazmine, 7.
“His eyes were blue. His face was kind of thin and pale,” Washington’s 15-year-old daughter, Alexis, told reporters last week.
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I’ll go ahead and state the obvious. 24 y/o Larry Woodruffe doesn’t fit the description offered by the 4 different witness statements or composite sketch. Accordingly, this tip was difficult to believe. Assuming the confession elicited is reliable— it is possible the previously identified suspect seen fleeing by several independent witnesses was a bystanader attempting to escape the shooting. To observers, however, he appeared to be the shooter himself. More information will have to be drawn out before there is a conviction. Nonetheless, the community is collectively responsible for obtaining evidence that has led to a credible arrest and we are closer to answers. That much is laudable.
Other witnesses also described seeing a white man in a pickup truck, according to the family’s attorney, S. Lee Merritt.
“It was a major shock to the family,” Merritt told CNN on Sunday morning. “Up until this point, at least four independent witnesses and a composite sketch had identified the primary suspect as a 40-something-year-old white male.”
Gonzalez said authorities felt the family was being truthful when describing the suspect.
“You’re talking about small children. They witnessed something very traumatic. And it’s very likely that the last thing they did see was … indeed that red truck and that driver that was in that truck, and that’s what they remembered last.”
As CrimeOnline previously reported, two black men, 20-year-old Eric Black Jr. and 24-year-old Larry Woodruffe, are accused of being the true suspects. Black allegedly admitted to the crime and told police they were driving a rented Kia SUV when the incident occurred. However, police said a red pickup truck was indeed in the area as well, as spotted on surveillance footage.
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“We believe now that that red truck and the driver is most likely just a witness, either by sight or sound, to what actually transpired,” Gonzalez said.
Authorities are still looking for the man in the red truck, but instead of a suspect, they think he may be a potential witness.
Meanwhile, Iowa State University psychology professor, Gary Wells, said that witness accounts of crimes are often unreliable.
“Generally speaking, when we’re talking about these kinds of events, we’re talking about something that happens quickly. It’s unexpected. The brain isn’t really wired to record verbatim accounts of things but rather is wired only to record the gist of things.”
Both suspects remain behind bars. Black has been charged with murder and authorities are expected to formally charge Woodruffe Monday. Woodruffe is currently in jail on drug charges.
Black reportedly told authorities that he drove the rented SUV while Woodruffe shot at the victims’ vehicle, in what appears to be mistaken identity. The suspects were allegedly retaliating against someone else and supposedly didn’t know Jazmine had been shot until seeing it on the news.
Black gave detectives permission to search his home, where they found a gun that matched with the shell casings found at the crime scene.
The story continues to develop. Check back with CrimeOnline as additional details become available.
[Feature Photo: Jazmine Barnes/Handout]