The family of a man wrongfully accused of shooting 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes at a Houston Walmart earlier this month said they are getting threats after civil rights activist Shaun King blasted the man on social media.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, a case of mistaken identity is what initially led the family of Jazmine 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. One of the bullets hit Jazmine in the head, killing her almost instantly.
Shaun King, who offered $35,000 for information that led to the suspect’s arrest, reportedly said he heard the wrongfully-accused man was a “racist,” in a now-deleted Twitter post.
“We’ve had 20 people call or email us and say he is a racist, violent (expletive) and always has been. Just tell me everything you know.”
Hailey Cantrell, the niece of the man in the red truck, Robert Cantrell, told ABC that although two other suspects have been arrested for Jazmine’s murder and her uncle has been cleared, she is still receiving hateful messages.
“I hear, ‘Someone is going to rape, torture and murder the women and children in your family,” someone reportedly wrote to Cantrell.
Cantrell admitted that she “teared up” when she saw a widely-circulated composite sketch of her uncle being shared online. Now that her uncle has been cleared, however, Cantrell is asking the public to “back off” and leave his family alone.
“I just want everyone to back off. The truth is out. It had nothing to do with us, nothing to do with my uncle at all.”
The Walmart Shooting and Mistaken Identity
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 days after the incident.
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.”
Sheriff 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.”
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.
Both suspects remain behind bars. Black has been charged with murder and authorities are expected to formally charge Woodruffe, who’s currently in jail on drug charges.
Black reportedly told authorities that he drove the vehicle while Woodruffe shot at the victims, in what appears to be mistaken identity. The suspects were allegedly retaliating against someone from a bar fight the previous night. Black supposedly didn’t know Jazmine had been shot until seeing it on the news.
Black also 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: Robert Cantrell/Police Handout]