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Community members rallied at a Texas business near where a 7-year-old girl was fatally shot when a gunman opened fire on the car she and her family were riding in last weekend in an attack that some believe was race related.
The Harris County sheriff has not said the Sunday shooting of Jazmine Barnes, a black child who was fatally struck after a gunman described as a possibly white man in his 30s or 40s opened fire on the family’s car at around 6:50 a.m., was motivated by race, but he has said investigators are not ruling anything out.
Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said Thursday they were focusing "on identifying who this individual is, who this coward is" and finding the red, four-door pickup truck he is believed to have been driving during the shooting.
Jazmine’s mother, who was wounded in the shooting and treated at a hospital and released, said at Saturday’s rally that she appreciates the outpouring of support from around the nation.
"It is going to be justice for her, and I feel it in the bottom of my heart," said Jazmine’s mother, LaPorsha Washington. "It's going to be justice for her, because there’s too many people out here looking for this man."
Washington spoke of the pain of losing a child and said Jazmine’s siblings were next to her when she was shot. She said supporters are giving them strength.
"My babies, man, they come to me and they’re, ‘Momma, are you all OK?’ … helping me, faith in me. And it’s supposed to be the other way around," Washington said. "It's not supposed to be like this."
Washington said they did nothing to provoke the gunman, and she believes it possibly could have been a hate crime.
Police on Thursday released a sketch of the suspect and released surveillance video of what they believe is the red pickup truck he was driving during the shooting.
Attorney Lee Merritt, who is assisting Jazmine’s family, said Saturday that he believes the shooting could be race-related, and he said previously that there seemed to be no other motivation for the crime but race.
"There was no other justification or the motivation that the family could identify, other than a white male who was a complete stranger to them decided to target their family," Merritt said Thursday at a news conference with the sheriff.
"He had a chance to look into the car, see young girls, observe that family, and without any other explanation he decided to riddle the car with bullets," Merritt said Thursday.
Supporters on Saturday shouted "What do we want? Justice! Who do we want it for? Jazmine! Say her name! Jazmine!" and "Whose child? Our child!" at the rally.
"However it is defined, it is a hateful and vicious act with violence and guns on innocent women and children driving for a Sunday morning coffee break," U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who represents part of Houston, said Saturday. "That should not be acceptable in this country."
She called the strong turnout at the rally "a powerful expression of really what America is about, and what this great city is about."
A reward of around $100,000 for information leading to the killer has been raised in an effort spearheaded by activist Shaun King.
Basketball great Shaquille O’Neal and a Houston police officer stepped up to pay for the girl’s funeral. Houston Texans star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins said he will pledge his playoff check to help the family and find the suspect.
The Harris County Sheriff’s Office said on Twitter Friday that "Investigators have received many potential leads since releasing the suspect sketch" in the killing.