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Second man charged with murder in seven-year-old girl’s shooting in Texas


(Reuters) – A second black man was charged with murder on Tuesday in the shooting death of an African-American girl in the Houston area, after initial witness descriptions of a white suspect sparked fears of a hate crime.

Larry Woodruffe, 24, a second suspect charged with murder in the shooting death of a 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes, after Eric Black Jr. (not shown), was charged with the same crime over the weekend, is seen in this image released by Harris County Sheriff’s Office in Houston, Texas, U.S., on January 8, 2019. Courtesy Harris County Sheriff’s Office/Handout via REUTERS

Larry Woodruffe, 24, was charged with capital murder on Tuesday in Harris County District Court, after Eric Black Jr., 20, was charged with the same crime over the weekend.

Authorities said Woodruffe, who was riding in a vehicle driven by Black, opened fire on Dec. 30 and killed 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes, who was in another car with her family.

Prosecutors have said they may seek the death penalty in the case. Attorneys for Woodruffe and Black could not be reached for comment.

Family members and friends held a funeral service for the girl in Houston on Tuesday, with her body carried in a white casket with flowers and the message “Princess Jazmine” sewn into the lid, according to the Houston Chronicle.

A police sketch of a light-skinned suspect initially led Barnes’ family and some community leaders to describe the shooting as a white-on-black hate crime, but investigators shifted their focus as new leads were developed.

The two men accused in the girl’s death are African-American.

Shaun King, a journalist and activist who previously wrote for the New York Daily News, has said on social media that he passed along a tip he received after writing about the case online, which Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez told reporters on Sunday helped lead investigators to Black.

“Credit is due the discipline and persistence of homicide investigators, who worked around the clock to corroborate tipster information with actual evidence,” Harris County’s first assistant district attorney, Tom Berg, said in a statement on Tuesday.

Woodruffe and Black are not believed to have intended to target Jazmine Barnes and her family and may have thought they were shooting at someone else, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office has said.

Woodruffe, who has previous convictions for assaulting a family member and possessing a controlled substance, was arrested last week on suspicion of drug possession and later charged with Barnes’ murder, according to jail and court records.

He is scheduled to appear in court on the murder charge on Thursday.

Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Cooney



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