The family of a man accused by activist Shaun King of being connected to the shooting death of 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes now says they're being targeted and threatened.
The Barnes case is tragic: the 7-year-old was waiting with her mother and her relatives outside a local Wal-Mart when a vehicle pulled up next to the family's car and opened fire. Jazmine Barnes was killed instantly. Her mother sustained serious injuries.
Initially, witnesses reported seeing an older white man drive off from the scene in a dark red truck. Police labeled the man a person of interest.
This is the man witnesses say murdered 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes on 12/30 as her family drove on the E. Sam Houston Pkwy frontage road at Wallisville Road. Thin white man, 30's-40's, in a red pickup. Call 713-221-6000 or @CrimeStopHOU at 713-222-TIPS #JusticeForJazmine #hounews pic.twitter.com/URR3w2Wxbm— HCSOTexas (@HCSOTexas) January 3, 2019
When she was able to give interviews, Barnes' mother suggested that the killing was racially motivated — an explanation soon adopted by members of the media and anti-racism activists, including Shaun King. Styling themselves as professional detectives, they set about finding the "suspect."
King landed on a man named Robert Cantrell who had been picked up by police some time after Barnes' murder, allegedly for a string of purse snatching incidents in the greater Houston area.
In a now-deleted post, King asked his followers, "What more can you tell me about Robert Cantrell?...We've had 20 people call or email us and tell us he is a racist, violent a**hole and always has been. Just tell me everything you know."
The post did not accuse Cantrell of murdering Barnes, but strongly implied that Cantrell was connected to the case.
According to a Houston-area ABC affiliate, Cantrell is not connected to Barnes' murder. Two suspects, both black males, are now under arrest in connection with the murder, and police believe the shooting was not racially motivated, but rather a case of mistaken identity. The two suspects allegedly mistook the Barnes' family car for a different vehicle and opened fire, believing they were attacking rival gang members.
Law enforcement officials now believe the "person of interest" in the sketch above is a witness to the crime who fled the scene, possibly for his own protection.
But the arrests have done little to quell interest around Cantrell, and now his family in Houston is "telling everyone to 'back off.'"
"I hear, 'Someone is going to rape, torture and murder the women and children in your family,'" Cantrell's niece told media.
"I'm not going to lie, I teared up," she continued. "I just want everyone to back off. The truth is out. It had nothing to do with us, nothing to do with my uncle at all."
King hasn't apologized for posting Cantrell's photo, telling his followers instead that he was just doing everything possible to find Jazmine Barnes' killer.
I’ll say it a thousand times. I don’t give a fuck who you are. If you shoot a little girl in the face and kill her, I’m coming for you.— Shaun King (@shaunking) January 8, 2019
I don’t care if you are a white supremacist or the local neighborhood thug.
On God. Every time.
Police have filed capital murder charges against both suspects in the Barnes case.