Around 7 a.m. on Sunday morning, seven-year-old Jazmine Barnes was shot and killed while sitting in the backseat of her family’s car east of Houston. The suspect is a white man with a beard, believed to be in his forties, who fired upon the family while driving a red pickup truck. There’s a lot we don’t know yet about what happened, and to keep updated on the details as they become available, follow this post. One thing that we learned almost immediately, though, is how quickly people in Houston—and the larger community—have responded to news of the shooting.
Almost immediately after the shooting, Dallas-based civil rights lawyer Lee Merritt and New York-based activist Shaun King began raising money in an attempt to identify the shooter. King offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to the killer’s arrest, a number boosted to $60,000 after Merritt (a college friend of King’s) announced that he was working with the family. On Thursday it had gone up to $100,000.
King and Merritt haven’t been crowdfunding or publicly fundraising for the reward money. Rather, Merritt told CNN that $35,000 of the reward money is from their personal funds, and that they had raised another $25,000 from individuals—one of whom is Houston Texans wide receiver Deandre Hopkins, who pledged his game check for Saturday’s playoff game to support, as he wrote in his tweet, King, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner in “bringing this man to justice” and to ease the burden of funeral costs. “What I can do, that’s nothing, that won’t bring back a person,” Hopkins said. “I’m not trying to make it out about me or anything like that. It’s the least I could do.”
When I see Jazmine Barnes' face, I see my own daughter. I'm pledging my playoff check this week to help her family with funeral costs and to support @shaunking @SherriffED_HCSO @SylvesterTurner in bringing this man to justice. On Saturday, I will be playing in your honor, Jazmine pic.twitter.com/oCRYSgfGO9— Deandre Hopkins (@DeAndreHopkins) January 3, 2019
Hopkins isn’t the only athlete to contribute. Former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal, who played high school ball in San Antonio, joined Houston police officer Kenneth Miles in dropping off a cashier’s check at a Houston funeral home to cover the costs of Jazmine’s memorial service.
In addition to the support in covering immediate funeral costs—and in King and Merritt’s reward for information leading to the arrest of the suspect—Barnes’s family has also set up a GoFundMe account for those who wish to contribute to continuing expenses. Tragedies often lead to people missing work, requiring support for the family’s other children (Barnes had three siblings), and dealing with problems both financial and otherwise. The campaign has raised more than $40,000 at press time, which should offer some relief from financial burdens as the family grieves.
As we wait for more information—and, potentially, for the identity of the shooter to be confirmed and for the gunman to be brought to justice—there’s some amount of comfort to be taken in the way that the community has come together. It’s difficult to ascribe a motive to a shooter who hasn’t been identified, but the circumstances of a white shooter firing into a car occupied by a black family—in an unprovoked attack, according to Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez—make it impossible not to at least consider the possibility that the attack may have been racially motivated. The fact that it’s the second such attack that neighborhood has seen in the past two years makes it additionally suspicious. (Harris County officials say that the truck and weapon were different in the 2017 shooting of A’Vonta Williams, and that the suspect in that case did not have a beard.) For now, we just don’t have many details. But in the meantime, we can be certain that there are a lot of people who are lending their support to see that justice is done.