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Attorney and activist offer reward in Texas drive-by shooting that killed 7-year-old

Frustrated that a suspect in the shooting death of a 7-year-old Texas girl was still on the loose, a civil r...

Posted: Jan 4, 2019 10:54 AM
Updated: Jan 4, 2019 10:54 AM

Frustrated that a suspect in the shooting death of a 7-year-old Texas girl was still on the loose, a civil rights attorney and an activist turned to social media to help police hopefully make a break in the case.

Attorney S. Lee Merritt has more than 21,000 Twitter followers. More than a million people follow social justice activist Shaun King.

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Shaun King

Homicide

The two former college classmates, who have worked on other cases, joined again to offer a reward for information leading to the arrest of a suspect in the early Sunday drive-by shooting of Jazmine Barnes in the Houston area. The reward had grown to $60,000 by Wednesday evening, King wrote on social media.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said Wednesday that authorities have had lots of tips but no breaks in the case. The gunman has been described as a bearded white man, possibly in his 40s, driving a red or maroon pickup. The victims in the shooting are black.

"The information that we had was very dry, very stagnant: a white male with a beard and a red truck," Merritt, 35, said Wednesday. "After sitting with that for 24 hours, and no additional details ... nothing coming forward, we wanted to do something additional that might help to get the ball rolling."

Merritt said $35,000 of the money is from his and King's private funds. Donors have contributed $25,000, Merritt said.

King could not be reached on Wednesday.

Merritt, who has offices in Dallas and Philadelphia, headed to Houston on Wednesday to serve as an adviser to Jazmine's family.

Merritt, who represents the family of Botham Shem Jean, an accountant who was killed in his apartment by a Dallas police officer, said he had seen families in mourning after tragedy, and felt compelled to help Jazmine's family through its grief.

"I have to sit with a lot of families who are going through the most tragic event that any of us can imagine. ... These people are hurting," he said. "They're dealing with the nuts and bolts of burying a loved one," he said. "So, I've been put in a position where I can help people, largely based on community recognition."

Jazmine was killed when the pickup pulled up next to her family's car and a man opened fire, the Harris County Sheriff's Office said.

Jazmine's mother, LaPorsha Washington, suffered a gunshot wound to her arm, authorities said. Her 6-year-old daughter suffered cuts from shattered glass, the sheriff's office said. Two teenage siblings were unharmed.

The family was still in their pajamas when they made the early morning coffee run.

Gonzalez has said Washington and her four daughters didn't appear to do anything to prompt the incident. The shooting was unprovoked, he said.

'Urgent. All hands on deck'

Before offering the reward, Merritt said he and King used their social media platforms to solicit information to help apprehend the gunman.

Two days after the shooting, King put out a tweet rallying people to help with the case.

He wrote: "URGENT. ALL HANDS ON DECK. A 40 y/o white man w/ a beard in a red pickup truck pulled up on 7 y/o Jazmine Barnes and her family near a Houston @Walmart and shot and killed her and injured others. I am joining the search for her killer and have a $25,000 reward. Need him NOW."

Merritt said he hopes the reward money will generate more leads.

By Wednesday evening, King wrote on Twitter that he had filtered through hundreds of tips: "Mostly garbage. All well meaning. 3-4 helpful. Working with the family and local authorities. Some promising leads, but not nearly enough."

Hundreds of people have donated more than $30,000 by Wednesday to GoFundMe account to help Jazmine's family pay for any expenses.

'We want to wake everyone's consciousness'

King and Merritt have been friends for about 20 years, since their days at the historically black Morehouse College in Atlanta.

Over the years, they worked together on several cases, including the fatal shooting of Antwon Rose II, a black teenager killed by police outside Pittsburgh in June.

Merritt said the two men helped authorities identify several suspects seen on a widely shared cell phone video attacking DeAndre Harris, a black man, in a parking garage at a Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017.

Four suspects were later arrested in connection with the beating, CNN affiliate WIVR reported. Three have been convicted and one is awaiting trial, according to WIVR. Harris, who was represented by Merritt, was acquitted of charges he assaulted a white protester at the rally.

Gonzalez said authorities are grateful for the efforts of Merritt and King.

"We want to awake everyone's consciousness to this and bring more attention to it. So, whatever the motivation may be for someone to be able to call in with that tip and get some extra money we are all for it," Gonzalez said Wednesday.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

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Reported Deaths: 6724
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto19672230
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Rankin12685264
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Madison9457199
Jones7962146
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Kemper90223
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 493769

Reported Deaths: 9931
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson710731374
Mobile36139727
Madison32425455
Tuscaloosa24184410
Montgomery22586500
Shelby21968215
Baldwin19758283
Lee14967153
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Houston10104261
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Dale4642107
Russell404930
Franklin399177
Covington3960106
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Escambia377672
Tallapoosa3588142
Clarke343650
Chambers3413110
Dallas3403141
Pike293472
Lawrence283484
Marion281995
Winston246867
Bibb245060
Geneva239970
Marengo236455
Pickens224654
Barbour211651
Hale210568
Fayette200756
Butler196866
Henry182441
Cherokee177038
Monroe166139
Randolph163740
Washington156535
Crenshaw144854
Clay144454
Macon142043
Cleburne137839
Lamar132833
Lowndes131151
Wilcox121825
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Conecuh106724
Perry105627
Sumter98531
Coosa88923
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Choctaw55123
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