On Sunday, authorities charged 20-year-old Eric Black Jr. with capital murder in the tragic and senseless death of 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes. Barnes was killed in a drive-by shooting on December 30 while she was in a vehicle with her mother and siblings in Houston, Texas.
Though initial reports, civil rights leaders, and racial activists framed the murder as a racially-motivated hate crime, the suspect, like young Jazmine, is black. The second suspect, 24-year-old Larry Woodruffe, a possible accomplice in the drive-by shooting, is also a black male.
"This is most likely a case of mistaken identity," said Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez at a Sunday news conference.
The case inflamed racial tensions after Jazmine's mother and multiple witnesses said they believed the man who killed young Jazmine was a white male. The Daily Caller reports that New York Daily News' Shaun King and Sheriff Gonzalez continued to promote the racially-charged narrative even after they had been tipped-off that the suspected killer was not white.
"Gonzalez acknowledged at a press conference Sunday that he received a tip from King in the middle of the week that Barnes’s killer was not the white male initially suspected in the case," The Daily Caller reported. "King wrote Sunday on Instagram that he received the tip on Jan. 3 that a 20-year-old black man named Eric Black Jr. and another man had shot Barnes."
King posted photos of a white man charged with an unrelated felony in the area and asked his followers to give him inside information about the man's alleged racism.
Gonzalez shrugged off the matter, arguing that the false hate crime narrative provided "important discussion" concerning racism.
"This death has sparked a lot of discussion on many different levels," the sheriff said. "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."
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) also jumped to conclusions before the facts were out, inflaming racial tensions by telling the press that the shooting was a hate crime. "Do not be afraid to call this what it seems to be — a hate crime," she said at a heated rally.
"I believe – and having written hate crime legislation, knowing the criteria, I believe that this should be looked at as a hate crime," Jackson Lee said Friday. "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."
Following the revelations of the suspects' identities, a reporter asked Jackson Lee on Sunday, "Do you feel it was irresponsible at all to suggest that this was a hate crime when we didn't have all the facts?"
"Absolutely not, nothing is irresponsible when it comes to the loss of a precious 7 or 8-year old," the congresswoman said, doubling down.
"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," she added. "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."
The Young Turks also pushed the false narrative as fact. As reported by The Daily Wire's Ryan Saavedra, the outlet quietly deleted YouTube videos wherein they falsely claimed a white man murdered Barnes: