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Fatal Shooting of 7-Year-Old Black Girl Outside Walmart Sparks Hate Crime Fears in Houston

4 minute read

The shooting death of 7-year-old black girl in Houston on Sunday was a targeted, racially motivated attack, her family attorney says.

The case of Jazmine Barnes – who was shot in the head and killed in front of her three sisters and her mother as they drove to Walmart – has attracted social media attention from celebrities and sports stars. And her community is demanding answers.

Police have not identified a motive in the killing, but are calling the shooting random and “totally unprovoked.” Authorities are looking for the red pickup truck that was caught on camera in a blurry photo, and Jazmine’s older sister was able to describe the suspect as a bearded white man in his 40s wearing a red hoodie.

On Thursday, Harris County Sheriff’s Office released a sketch of the suspected gunman.

Civil rights attorney and community activist S. Lee Merritt posted on Twitter that, “There exist no rationale for the attack other than hate.”

He added: “There are no days off from being black. No holidays.”

Merritt also said the shooting bore similarities to an August 2017 attack on a black man and woman – this one involving a silver pickup. Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez later corrected earlier claims that the 2017 shooting happened in the same area that Jazmine was killed – saying that shooting took place six miles away. However, he also said detectives are investigating whether the two shootings are connected.

In an interview from her hospital bed, Jazmine’s mother LaPorsha Washington described the attack through tears. She said she initially heard shots fired from a vehicle behind her, and then the driver pulled in front of her car and slowed down as he continued to shoot at them.

“It was not fair,” Washington, 30, told ABC13. “He intentionally killed my child for no reason. He didn’t even know her, he didn’t know who she was.”

She said one of her daughters pointed to Jazmine’s lifeless body, and that was when she realized her 7-year-old was shot in the head.

In the days following the crime, the reward for information leading to the arrest of the person responsible for Jazmine’s death has gone up to $100,000. Merritt has teamed up with civil-rights activist and reporter Shaun King to spread the word on social media, which has led to multiple tips in the case. King announced that a rally is scheduled for Saturday at the spot where Jazmine was killed. Her funeral will take place on Tuesday.

Community activist Deric Muhammad said during recent a press conference that Jazmine’s shooting raises concerns that black people in Houston are being targeted.

“We got to call it what it is,” he said. “Black people are being targeted in this country, black people are being targeted in this county, black people are being targeted in this city. So we are thoroughly convinced that the killing of Jazmine Barnes was race related, we believe that there is a white supremacist element in that area that needs to be trotted out, found and brought to justice.”

Meanwhile, celebrities and other notable people on social media have taken to spreading the word of Jazmine’s murder. Bernice King, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., called for justice.

“Justice will also include us interrogating, challenging and transforming the climate and culture which created the murderer.” King said.

On Thursday, Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins also announced that he would donate his $29,000 playoffs paycheck to Jazmine’s family.

“When I see Jazmine Barnes’ face, I see my own daughter,” Hopkins posted on Instagram. “On Saturday, I will be playing in your honor, Jazmine.”

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Write to Gina Martinez at gina.martinez@time.com