Education

Jazmine Barnes Deserves More

So do other victims of gun violence

On December 30, 2018 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes was fatally shot outside of a Walmart in a drive-by shooting. Only one of the perpetrators has been publicly named and seen in court while the other was only being identified as Larry W. Activism in Texas, where the tragic crime took place, has taken main stage spurring the #JusticeForJazmine campaign. Yet as her funeral has passed, it seems like the conversation will too.

What was initially thought to be a hate crime has turned into a discussion of child deaths as it relates to gun violence once it was reported the perpetrators were not white men. USA Today reported that 8 children and teens die everyday from gun violence.

Jazmine was in the car with three of her sisters and her mom LaPorsha Washington.  LaPorsha was shot in the arm and sent to the hospital that same day. Her other daughter, who has gone unnamed, was also injured by glass that broke as a result of the shooting.

Jazmine’s family initially reported that the man of the red truck that pulled up next to them and opened fire was being driven by a white male. This spurred speculation and up-roar over the possibility of this little girl being killed as a result of a hate crime. Later 20-year-old Eric Black Jr. was charged with capital murder and admitted to being the driver of the car.

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On this past Thursday, a brave witness came to me to report that Larry Woodruffe and Eric Black, Jr. actually shot and killed 7 year old Jazmine Barnes and that Jazmine’s mother and family and 4 other eyewitnesses had confused a white man who sped off in his truck as the shooter. I reported this to the Sheriff immediately, because the witness was so compelling, but the sheriff and I both just could not make sense of it. 4 different eyewitnesses thought the shooter was the white man in the truck. It wasn’t. It was these men. We received so many bad tips, and so much misinformation, it just took us 3 days to solve it after the initial report was made. Let me tell you the story of the red truck and how it came to be the focus of this investigation. Two men, in a completely different vehicle, pulled up and shot and killed Jazmine Barnes, shot her mother, and injured her sisters. Jazmine and the girls were still in pajamas. Her mother and the girls never saw the shooter. They heard the shots, saw that Jazmine was shot in the head, that her mother was shot, and then looked up and saw this red truck with a white man driving it peeling off. THREE separate eyewitnesses, each credible, who also heard the shooting, also saw this truck speeding off. I spoke to each of them. They also assumed the white man driving it fired the shots. A brave man even followed the red truck in his own car and got a good look at him. A tow truck driver also saw the truck and got a look at him. In the meantime, the two men that actually shot and killed Jazmine drove off in a completely different direction through the neighborhood. They each later claimed that they thought they were shooting someone from a rival gang. Yes, they did it. No, they weren’t framed. It just took several days to solve it.

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Prosecutors, based on Eric’s story, now report that he and the other man who CNN has identified as Larry Woodruffe targeted that car thinking it belonged to a rival gang who had an altercation with Eric and Larry W. The fact that this is now being called a case of mistaken identity does not make Jazmine’s death any less tragic.

This little girl, along with her sisters and her mother, expected a normal day together. They were on an early morning coffee run together in their pajamas. Instead it ended in tragedy and left LaPorsha wondering what she may have done to provoke the driver.

If you can watch that video and not realize we need gun control, I don’t know what else will be convincing. That little girl who had dreams of being a teacher and loved to sing and dance had her whole life ahead of her. She deserved a chance to achieve her dreams and her mother and family deserved a chance to be there as she did so.

Jazmine’s story shouldn’t just fall in the pile of other children who have died as a result of gun violence. Her name, face and story deserve to be remembered.

Our nation has failed her and the countless other victims who have lost their lives and had their names forgotten by the masses. This tragedy could have been avoided if our government removed the NRA from its pocket and did what is right for the safety of its citizens.

While Eric Black Jr. has been charged in Jazmine’s death, Larry Woodruffe has not been charged in connection with this crime.  It has been reported that Larry was in custody on drug possession charges while the case against him in relation to Jazmine’s death was still being built.

As this case progresses, we have to keep saying her name. Jazmine Barnes can not and should not be forgotten. We can’t allow her killers names to take over the news cycle, making her an afterthought. We already failed her once. She deserved more from us.

Cover image courtesy of Today Show

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Also published on Medium.

Davyn is a journalism student at Arizona State University. During her free...