Hundreds attend funeral for 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes as second suspect charged
Loved ones and friends of 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes filled a 2,000-seat Houston church on Tuesday for the funeral of the second-grader killed when a gunman opened fire on her family’s car in what investigators suspect was a case of “mistaken identity.”
A choir began the service at the Community of Faith Church singing gospel hymns as mourners took their seats after filing by the white open casket during a viewing.
Jazmin’s parents, LaPorsha Washington and Christopher Cevilla, spoke to the mourners that included Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and former NBA great Shaquille O’Neal.
“God blessed me and my family with an angel. He saw fit to take her back to heaven with him,” Cevilla said. “Her job was done and she did it perfectly. She’s not only my daughter but my baby, my angel … she’s everybody’s daughter.”
Washington, struggling through tears, read a poem written by an aunt in her slain daughter’s words.
“God picked me up and hugged me and said I welcome you,” Washington said.
Many mourners attending the funeral wore purple, which was Jazmine’s favorite color.
Jazmine’s life was cut short on Dec. 30, when a gunman opened fire on her, her mother and three sisters as they were riding in their car in northwest Houston. Jazmine, who was sitting in the backseat, was shot in the head and killed, while her mother was wounded in the left arm.
The Harris County Sheriff’s Office launched a massive manhunt for a suspect initially described by Jazmine’s 15-year-old sister Alxis and three other independent witnesses as a white man driving a red pickup truck.
But a tip shared with social justice activist and journalist Shaun King led to a stunning break in the case and helped investigators identify two men suspected in Jazmine’s death, authorities said. Detectives now believe the man in the red truck was just a bystander who pulled up next to Washington’s car at a stop light and sped off as gunfire erupted, said Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez.
On Sunday, Gonzalez announced the arrest of Eric Black Jr., 20, an African-American man, who confessed that he was involved in the shooting.
Black has been charged with capital murder in the case. A second suspect, Larry Woodruffe, 24, believed to be the gunman who killed Jazmine, was charged with capital murder on Tuesday as the girl’s funeral was being held.
During the funeral, King Davis, superintendent of the Sheldon Independent School District in Houston, relayed remarks from Jazmine’s teachers, who described the little girl as having “the sweetest spirit.”
He noted that Jazmine had told her mother that she wanted to be a teacher.
“She loved everyone and wanted to give hugs and take care of others. Jazmine was a very good student,” Davis said. “That certainly sounds like the attributes of a good teacher and I would have hired her on the spot.”
Sheriff Gonzalez also spoke at Jazmine’s funeral, saying the investigation is not yet complete.
“Jazmine’s spirit touched all of us who worked on this investigation. Her beautiful smile inspired us,” Gonzalez said. “I look forward to the day that I can truly say, ‘Rest in peace sweet Jazmine for justice has been done.'”
The suspect, Black, reportedly told homicide detectives that the shots that killed Jazmine were fired from a rental car he was driving, prosecutors said during Black’s court hearing Sunday. Black also allegedly told police he had the 9mm pistol at his home, which matched shell casings found at the scene of Jazmine’s shooting, authorities said.
“This is not my son,” Black’s mother, Quishawna Walker, told ABC affiliate station KTRK-TV in Houston. “I know he confessed because he has a conscience. This is not the way he was brought up. This is not his character. I’m praying for both sides. I’ve always wanted justice for Jazmine.”
Gonzalez said last week that Jazmine and her family were targeted when the suspects mistakenly believed their car was occupied by someone they had previously had a confrontation with.
The high-profile shooting case prompted an outpouring of support for Jazmine’s loved ones from people across the nation, including celebrities like Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and actresses Gabrielle Union and Olivia Wilde.
Hopkins pledged to donate his $29,000 game check from Saturday’s Texans playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts to pay for Jazmine’s funeral.
Lee Merritt, an attorney for Jazmine’s family, told ABC News that Jazmine’s parents want to use some of the money that’s poured in from people across the nation to establish the Jazmine Barnes Foundation, which would provide scholarships to future school teachers.
“The parents of Jazmine have constantly emphasized that they don’t want their daughter to die in vain, that they want her legacy to live on,” Merritt said.
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