A blurry photo of a pickup truck taken moments before the pre-dawn slaying of 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes near a Walmart in east Harris County is one of the few clues detectives hope will lead to her killer’s capture.
The family never made it to the store, Gonzalez said. As far as investigators know, the family did nothing to spark the gunman’s ire and he made no attempt to communicate before opening fire around 6:50 a.m. from the next lane over.
One of the detectives handling the investigation, Lt. Christopher Sandoval, said the eldest girl in the car managed to get a look at her sister’s assailant. She described him as a bearded man in his 40s wearing a red hoodie. The man is believed responsible for killing the little girl in the backseat and striking her 30-year-old mother, LaPorsha Washington, in the arm, according to police.
The mother managed to flee the gunfire toward Beltway 8, police said. She pulled over to the shoulder to call 911 when she realized Jazmine wasn’t breathing. Her daughter died in the vehicle.
First responders at the scene were especially distraught by the girl’s death, Sandoval recalled.“Nobody deserves to die, especially not a 7-year-old girl. If you could have been on that scene yesterday and seen her lifeless body being pulled from the car, you would be absolutely upset.”
The youngest sibling in the car was hurt by shattered glass, the sheriff said, adding that Washington remained hospitalized in stable condition as of Monday afternoon.
The shooting death capped the end of 2018 with heartbreak as Jazmine’s father, Christopher Cevilla, issued a tearful plea at the press conference for help in finding the suspect responsible for taking the life of his daughter.
She was a second-grader at Monahan Elementary School in east Houston and was slated to turn eight in February, according to officials.
“My daughter was 7 years old,” Cevilla said, describing her as “ loving, caring, very passionate with people, very sweet, innocent.”
“Just a lot of things that have been robbed of me and my family that we will never get back,” Cevilla said, as two photos of Jazmine were displayed on TV monitors.
“What if that was your daughter,” he asked. “Help me and my family get justice for my baby girl.”
Sheldon ISD officials identified Jazmine as one of their students and asked parents of her classmates to “break the news to their children now and comfort them while they are still on break.”
Authorities have not narrowed down the motive for the attack.
“It is our belief that it was totally unprovoked, whatever it was. We’re leaving no stone unturned. We’re going to leave every motive out there as a possibility,” Gonzalez said.
Authorities acknowledged that tracking down a killer on the vague description of a pickup truck will be a challenge in a sprawling metropolis teeming with similar vehicles.
“Yes, we know we’re in Texas. Yes, we know we have a lot of pickup trucks out there,” Gonzalez said. “But when you put the pieces together, consider that we’re looking for a bearded man, possibly in his 40s, driving a red pickup truck. This could be your neighbor. This could be your co-worker.”
He appealed for the public’s help, especially those with security cameras attached to their homes and businesses, to look for any sign of the man in the red truck.
And to the killer, should he be listening, Gonzalez had sharp words.
“I would suggest that you do the right thing and turn yourself in. There’s no need for anyone else to get harmed,” he said.