Remembering Jasmine Harris
On June 2, 20-year-old Jasmine Harris was killed by a stray bullet in downtown Omaha after leaving the Taste of Omaha festival. Harris had been attending the festival with a childhood friend and had called her older sister to tell her she was coming home shortly before midnight.
As the two were walking to their car, they made a stop by the famous giant aluminum slides adjacent to the Gene Leahy Mall at 11th & Farnam streets. That was when shots were fired in their direction. Jasmine’s friend had hit the ground, Jasmine had been hit by a bullet. Police said it was a clash between rival gang members. Harris was not a target but was caught in the crossfire. Seven other individuals were injured.
The other gunshot victims were Dewayne Staley Jr., 28, who was hit in the leg; Makye Thomas, 15, who sustained a foot injury; Kristen Prater, 16, whose leg was grazed; Velia Vasquez, 18, who was shot in the pelvis; Robert McGhee-Gould, 20, who was hit in the foot; and Alanis Mease, 17, whose foot was grazed. Gregory Austin, 19, was also injured, but police said his injury was caused by flying glass.
In late June, Markese Davis, 20, was ordered to be held on $250,000 bail after being charged in Douglas County Court as a felon in possession of a handgun. Davis had been at the slides when a group of people, identified as Crips, walked nearby. Davis grabbed the gun from a friend, Robert McGhee-Gould, showed it, then returned fire after a Crip began shooting, according to testimony from Omaha Police Detective Matt Backora.
Jasmine Harris, as an innocent bystander, was caught in the middle of the confrontation. She was shot in the chest by a 9mm bullet which police think was fired by the Crip. That shooter has not been apprehended or charged.
Davis’ indictment was one of the last reports regarding the incident. That was in July.
Lottie Mae Harris, great aunt to Jasmine Harris, contacted the NOISE team via Facebook asking that her niece's story be kept alive while her case remains under investigation.
“I felt that after my niece was killed...that [her case] was only covered for a short period of time and that was right after Jasmine had passed away,” said Ms. Harris who lives in Las Vegas but was in Omaha for the funeral of her younger sister the weekend her niece was killed.
She wanted people to know that Jasmine was someone who loved everyone she met, was very close to her family, a Benson High graduate, and had plans to attend cosmetology school in fall of 2018.
Ms. Harris went on to describe how she felt race played into the lack of coverage of Jasmine’s case. “I feel that because she is a young African-American woman, because of that she was not covered. This is why you have so many African-Americans, black people, or people of color saying that, our lives matter too. I do believe if she had been a white child, that that happened to, an innocent bystander, I think that your news media would have ran it into the ground. That’s just my personal opinion because that’s what I see.”
University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts was reported missing on July 19 after she went for a run a few days prior. Her missing made national news and on July 24 her case was taken on by the FBI. The authorities also made a website called findingmollie.iowa.gov and an award for $400,000 was posted. August 21, just over a month later, Tibbett’s body was found and the alleged murderer, Cristhian Bathena Rivera, was apprehended and charged. Camisha Hollis, Omaha woman and African-American mother of three, has been missing since April 2, 2018 with no new leads. Her case was recently reclassified as a homicide yet her body has not been found.
As for Jasmine’s case, police have told the family they have exhausted many leads with one taking them as far as Des Moines, Iowa but have had little luck in apprehending the shooter. At Mayor Jean Stothert’s town hall in Council District 2 on October 29, NOISE relayed a question about Jasmine from Ms. Harris to Omaha Police Chief Schmaderer, he replied:
“We are working that case very diligently, that’s a case that I stay up with personally, and I hope to have some resolve on that case because we still continue to make a lot of progress. Bear with us, it is a murder investigation so it could take some time but we continue to work that full speed and as long as I’m around, we’re going to stay up with that case. Okay, that one is personally on my mind.”
Ms. Harris she appreciated the Chief’s statements but still felt there has been no justice for Jasmine, “If you have been wronged, then you deserve someone to come in and correct that wrong, into a right. And that’s what I feel justice is, and I feel that Jasmine has not gotten that yet because right now, nobody is being held accountable for her death. She was wronged when someone decided to shoot into a crowd people and take her life, she did nothing wrong, and I think that when you do something that breaks the law, yes, justice should be served.”
She said little additional information had been presented to the family at the time of our interview in late November.
Ms. Harris believes the community needs to come together and break the silence. “The code of silence these gang members have...this code of silence has got to stop.”
Her words stand out as other murder investigations have folded due to lack of outspoken witnesses. The case of Sgt. Kyle LeFlore, who was shot and killed outside of Reign Night Club in January, encountered a major challenge after a key witness backed out of testimony due to intimidation. “No one should have a problem with witnesses standing their ground and speaking out about a killing,” LeFlore told the Omaha World-Herald, “This shouldn’t even be a problem within our community.
“It takes a whole community to be concerned and say enough is enough,” said Ms. Harris who wants to see a serious approach to gun control. “I’ve contacted senators, state, mayor, and Ernie Chambers, contacted members of city council but to no real answers - my biggest thing is gun control - that is a social issue the needs to be addressed.”