NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal came forward to help pay the funeral of Jazmine Barnes, a 7-year-old girl killed in a drive-by shooting. Two suspects were arrested in relation with the murder, which turned out to be a case of mistaken identity.
The senseless shooting of Jazmine left the nation in shock, and while many only expressed their frustration with words, Shaquille O’Neal took action. The NBA legend joined Houston Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins to cover the costs of the little girl’s funeral.
O’Neal accompanied Houston Senior Police Officer Kenneth Miles to deliver a cashier's check to Jazmine's family last week, ahead of the funeral which took place at the Community of Faith Church in Houston on January 9.
Talking to TMZ about his good deed, Shaq stated he saw the news and knew that he had to help. “With something that terrible to have happened, I don't want people to have to worry about trying to raise a few thousand to pay for a funeral," he said.
“I'm always in Houston. I've been living in Houston for 20 years, so I just thought it was the right thing to do."
It was reporter Brandon Walker who first shared the news, posting a picture of O'Neal on Twitter alongside officer Kennet Miles, saying: "@houstonpolice Officer Kenneth Miles and @SHAQ join forces to cover funeral expenses for 7-year-old #JazmineBarnes, the girl shot and killed while riding in a car with her mother and sisters. @kprc2"
Second-grader Jazmine was on a coffee run with her mother, LaPorsha Washington, and three sisters on the early hours of December 30 when a vehicle passing by opened fire against them. The 7-year-old received a gunshot in the head, dying instantly.
LaPorsha received a bullet in her arm, and her 6-year-old daughter was wounded by shattered glass. Jazmine’s two older sisters escaped uninjured.
While the family first offered a description of the shooter depicting him as a white man, police arrested 20-year-old Eric Black Jr. and 24-year-old Larry Woodruffe, both African American males, for the crime.
It’s believed now that the spoken portrait offered by the girls is that of a witness that passed by just after the other car. The girls were probably confused at the moment since everything happened so quickly.
After further investigation, authorities learned that the death of Barnes was a result of mistaken identity.
An unnamed informant told activist and journalist Shaun King that the suspects thought the car Barnes and her family was riding was owned by a person they had an altercation with earlier.
Black and Woodruffe were arrested thanks to a tipper, and while the first one confessed he was driving the vehicle used in the shooting and signaled Woodruffe as the shooter, the latter denied his involvement in the crime, stating in court that he wasn’t with Black that day.
Black was first arrested on a drug charge, after he was pulled over by police on January 5 due to a traffic violation. Cops found marijuana in his car. While he waited for his sentence on the drug charge, police received a tip about the initials of Barnes’ shooters being “EB” and “LW.”
Black also confessed the gun used at the scene was at his house and gave police permission to search the property. A 9 mm gun consistent with shell casings from the shooting scene was found there.
Both Black and Woodruffe have been charged for capital murder and could be facing a life sentence or death if convicted.
At the funeral, paid by O’Neal, thousands of mourners showed up to say their last goodbye to little Jazmine. Her white casket was adorned with purple flowers with the words “Princess Jazmine” sewn into its lid.
The girls’ mother read a letter recognizing the day as a celebration with the assurance that Barnes was among the angels in heaven smiling down on them.
Is not rare to hear that the NBA legend has gone out of his way to help others in need. Last year, he helped a family involved in a car crash on Thanksgiving day.
He was on his way to deliver free turkeys at the American Police Hall of Fame & Museum in Titusville, Florida when he and officers from the Broward County Sherrif's Office witnessed a head-on collision between two cars.
O’Neal made sure to calm the kids while officers controlled the situation.
He also gave away thousands of toys to kids in need as part of his annual Shaq-A-Claus program, an initiative started by the star in 1992 and that he has kept up since then, adding more and more gifts each year.
Source: GettyImages/Global Images of Ukraine
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