Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democratic Congresswoman from Texas, has defended her statement in which she indicated that the drive-by shooting murder of a 7-year-old black girl, Jazmine Barnes, might have been a “hate crime,” despite the fact that both suspects taken into custody in the case are black.
Fox News reports:
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, when asked Sunday by a reporter about some of the comments made in the aftermath of the young girl’s death in Houston on Dec. 30, said it was “absolutely not” irresponsible to make that suggestion.
Barnes was shot and killed while sitting in the backseat of her mother’s car. Witness descriptions of a white man in his forties at the scene of the shooting – and a sketch put out by police – prompted widespread speculation a hate crime had happened.
During a press conference on Friday, the Democratic Congresswoman stated, “I believe – and having written hate crime legislation, knowing the criteria, I believe that this should be looked at as a hate crime. We don’t want to have on the street someone who is willing to kill children and possibly kill them in the name of hate.”
Before the suspects were arrested, Barnes’ family’s attorney, Lee Merritt, also stated “we do believe that it [the murder] was racially motivated in part because our nation at this moment is highly racially charged.”
Police confirmed to the Associated Press on Monday, however, that both suspects in Barnes’ murder were, in fact, black.
One of the suspects, 20-year-old Eric Black Jr., was charged with capital murder. He is set to make his appearance in court today. News of his arrest made waves on Sunday.
Fox News reports:
Moments after police announced Black was in custody, Merritt wrote in an Instagram post that a second suspect, Larry Woodruffe, 24, was arrested in the shooting. Woodruffe is believed to be the shooter in the incident, according to Merritt, although police as of Monday have not confirmed the arrest, his identity or alleged role, the AP says.
On Sunday, the reported asked Sheila Jackson Lee, “Do you feel it was irresponsible at all to suggest that this was a hate crime when we didn’t have all the facts?”
She answered, “Absolutely not, nothing is irresponsible when it comes to the loss of a precious 7 or 8-year old.”
She added, “The good thing was that in the comments that were made, there was no hysteria, there was no encouraging individuals to go out and find that person. It was nothing but orderly respect for the rule of law allowing our law enforcement to be able to do their tasks. And then now to call for an understanding that any violence against a child should not be the norm and that we should stand up against all violence.”
Investigators feel that the murder seems to have been a case of “mistaken identity” in which “the intended targets were likely someone else,” Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez stated on Sunday.
“This death has sparked a lot of discussion on many different levels,” Gonzalez continued. “We know that there is an important discussion that does need to take place about race, about the real fear and concerns that hate crimes are in an uptick across this county. We also need to talk about gun violence.”