Girl murdered in drive-by shooting: Mistaken identity or not, no excuse for murder

Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune.

By Maramis

Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune.

Can you imagine the shock and horror that went through the little girl’s mother and three sisters who were in the car at that time of that “mistaken identity” shooting of little Jazmine?
Drive-by shootings are just that — no stopping to check if you have the right vehicle or the right people (right in this case meaning your intended target); you approach, you shoot, and you keep right on going, even though in this case the target car was at a stoplight.
There didn’t seem to be any comment as to whether or not the shooter’s vehicle was also stopped at that light — which seems highly unlikely.
How could anyone in that targeted vehicle have adequately described either the driver or the shooter at a moment like that? If they could have, it would have been more than amazing. Even delayed memory flashes could not bring to mind a good enough description of the driver or the shooter, while the color of the vehicle in their memories (red, according to family members in the target car) turned out to have been a truck they had seen at the light, but was not the one the suspects were driving.
While little Jazmine Barnes’ family initially believed the shooting could be racially motivated, it was quickly discovered, thanks to a tip from a civil rights activist, that the person of interest for the sheriff’s department to check on should be Eric Black Jr., a 20-year-old black man who admitted he was driving a dark-colored SUV from which a passenger opened fire, authorities said.
The second suspect, according to Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, has been identified and is also black, but he did not say if that suspect was in custody. While the sheriff did say that they were still investigating, he also said that the tragedy did not appear to be race-related.
While all that was little enough to bring any comfort to the family, the father of Jazmine, Chris Sevilla, stated it was a bit of relief to him.
During a court hearing, prosecutors revealed that a confidential source had contacted the sheriff by email and told him the killers had “shot the car by mistake.” Apparently the suspects thought the vehicle was someone else’s and were firing on purpose at those whom they believed were their intended target. Why they were shooting was apparently not addressed at that time.
The sheriff said there was, in fact, a red truck at a stoplight just before the shooting, but further investigation proved that the driver of that truck did not appear to have been involved. It was night, everything happened so quickly, and such memory mistakes are bound to happen. However, authorities will talk to the person in that red truck to get his account of the shooting event.
Prosecutors said the handgun believed to have been used in the shooting had been found in Black’s home.
Regardless of the mother’s mistaken belief that it was a white man — and having a composite sketch of a white man in a dark hood drawn up and circulated — it is easy to understand such a mistake considering there was a similar and unsolved incident in the area in 2017 in which a gunman described as white shot into a vehicle carrying at least two black people. Race/hate crimes are emotional on both sides of the crime and can contribute to such emotional mistakes.
But this column is not about the news of the killing. That can be found in many other places. It’s important to know that such things are still happening so we never take our safety — even in just driving to the grocery store, as Jazmine’s family apparently was — for granted.
There is no way to anticipate such a crime as the above crime of murder due to mistaken identity, but it does bring up the subjects of hate, race issues, and how we raise our children to go forth into the world as thinking adults.
The things we say around the house when our children are in earshot get into their minds and can sometimes stay there and even turn into fodder for their unacceptable behavior as they go off on their own. If a video was being made of all those times words of hate were used toward another race or group of people while your children were within hearing range, why should it be a surprise that one of your children decided to act on YOUR hate and take it to the streets?
Unlike facts, which can often show up the falsehoods for what they are, emotions are in a totally different realm. We may not like that some formerly believed “facts” turn out to be untrue, but at least — if we have a reasoning mind and an ounce or two of common sense (the world is NOT flat) — we can probably accept them without wanting to shoot down the bearer of such information. Dealing with the heat of emotion is not quite so simple. If we hate someone for their color, their religion, or maybe even their profession — or for something we heard our parents teach us without their knowing we were listening — that hate clings to our innards like glue until we can grasp the absurdity of our prejudice and let it go due to common sense, additional information, or even under the concept of brotherhood.
While there was much support for the family of Jazmine from people all over the country and from all walks of life, even to that of offering a $100,000 reward leading to the arrest of the perpetrators, that was not, and will not ever be, enough to eradicate the kind of thinking that is the minds of those who would shoot at anyone for their own self-absorbed reasons. Such reasons can involve hating someone’s color, the fact that they may have been annoyed by the targeted individual(s) earlier in the day, they may have been cut off at a previous stoplight by someone who is now a would-be murder target, or any other frivolous reason that might stir the killing instinct into reality such as it did for those two young black men.
While good and conscientious parenting can go a long way toward raising non-violent children — both latent and openly self-expressive — we, all of us, must consider the culture we allow to be bombarding our youth all the time, from games and comics, to movies and videos
and such, all with the understated and suggestive look of violence, if not outright torture and blatant murder.
Yes, I am suggesting that we, the public (not all of us, of course), and those who are only in it for their profits, are filling the minds of our youth with images and ideas that they are selling and that are freely available to them; that what they want is more important than what other people want and therefore, if it takes stealing, lying, cheating, or killing, it’s more or less okay.
They let their videos and movies do the talking and would never admit that they may be contributing to the overwhelming amount of violence that gets into a young person’s mind that may one day “allow them and even encourage them” to shoot and kill another person.
Mistaken identity or not, what could possibly make that drive-by shooting acceptable on any level?
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Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email
her at

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