A 20-year-old man has been charged with capital murder in the fatal shooting of 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes in the Houston area last month, and the police were pursuing at least one other suspect, the authorities said on Sunday.
The authorities identified the man, Eric Black Jr., and said he admitted to taking part in the shooting, which happened on Dec. 30.
At a court hearing for Mr. Black early on Sunday, a prosecutor said the authorities had gotten a tip about Mr. Black and another man, identified by the initials L.W. On Instagram, a lawyer for Jazmine’s family, Lee Merritt, named the second suspect as Larry Woodruffe, 24. A man with that name was booked into the Harris County jail on Sunday on a drug possession charge.
The arrests came after a weeklong search in a case that, on its face, offered few clues: Officials were pursuing reports of a white man in a red pickup truck who pulled up alongside Jazmine and her family while they were driving to get coffee and then opened fire into their car.
The notion of a white man firing on the family and killing a black girl drew the attention of national civil rights activists and fueled speculation that the shooting was racially motivated. But the suspect arrested this weekend is black, and the authorities said Jazmine’s family’s vehicle may have been targeted by mistake.
[Hundreds gathered this weekend to honor Jazmine and fight for justice in her case. Read more about the rally here.]
“All evidence gathered so far in the Jazmine Barnes Homicide case supports investigators’ strong belief that she and her family were innocent victims,” the Harris County Sheriff’s Office said in a tweet Sunday.
The office had vowed to find Jazmine’s killer, using the hashtag #JusticeForJazmine, but had said it could not say whether the case was a hate crime. “We’re not ruling anything out and we’re not going to speculate,” Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said last week.
Mr. Merritt, the lawyer who is representing Jazmine’s family, acknowledged on Twitter that the men arrested did not fit the description of multiple witnesses or the sketch of the suspect released by the authorities.
“It is difficult to understand how at least four independent witnesses mistook two black male suspects for one older white suspect,” he said. But he suggested that the man witnesses described could have been a bystander attempting to escape the shooting.
Mr. Merritt did not respond to requests for further comment on Sunday.
Jazmine was in the car with her mother and three sisters around 7 a.m. when a man in a pickup truck pulled up beside them and began shooting. A bullet struck Jazmine in the head and she died at the scene, the police said.
The initial description of the gunman as a white man was based on accounts of the shooting from the family, the sheriff’s office said at a news conference last week. The authorities released a sketch of the suspect, describing him as a thin white man in his 30s or 40s.
Jazmine’s mother, LaPorsha Washington, who was injured in the shooting, has tried to make sense of her daughter’s death. “I have no tint on my windows or anything so you can see there is a mother — a black mother — with daughters, beautiful children,” Ms. Washington told CNN. “You took my baby from me and you have no care in the world.”
After Jazmine’s killing, the public mobilized to help the family. Shaun King, a prominent racial justice activist and a columnist at The Intercept, had offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the gunman’s arrest. DeAndre Hopkins, a wide receiver for the Houston Texans, pledged to donate his paycheck from this weekend’s playoff game, which amounts to $29,000, to help pay for Jazmine’s funeral.
At a rally for Jazmine on Saturday, supporters clutched banners and artwork dedicated to Jazmine, who was in second grade at a Houston-area school. “No peace, no justice,” the crowd chanted. Many parents said the shooting had made them in fear of their own lives and those of their children.
It was unclear who was representing Mr. Black or Mr. Woodruffe. The Harris County Public Defender’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
At the court hearing for Mr. Black, a prosecutor said that an anonymous source had contacted the authorities and said the men did not realize the vehicle they shot belonged to Jazmine and her family until they saw it on the news.
The prosecutor said Mr. Black told the authorities that he had driven a rental vehicle during the shooting and that an accomplice had opened fire from the passenger side. The authorities recovered a pistol consistent with evidence at the scene, he said.
In a statement on Sunday, Mayor Sylvester Turner of Houston thanked the public for an “outpouring of support from across the country.”
“It provided law enforcement with a sense of urgency and made Jazmine’s loved ones know they weren’t alone in their time of grief,” he said, adding: “It’s now my hope that justice will prevail and that Jazmine’s family will find some comfort knowing the alleged gunman is off the street.”