How Stress Can Lead Eyewitnesses to Get Things Wrong

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Can stress alter memories of traumatic events? That's what some are wondering after the Houston case of mistaken identity.

Seven-year-old Jazmine Barnes was shot and killed on Dec. 30 as she sat in a car with her family waiting at a traffic light near a Walmart in what's being called a case of mistaken identity. 

Eric Black Jr, 20, was arraigned on a capital murder charge Monday after a police received a tip. Cops say he and another suspect, 24-year-old Larry Woodruff, opened fire on the car with Jazmine and her sisters and mother last month.

But authorities initially feared the shooting was a racially motivated hate crime and released a sketch after Jazmine's sister and other witnesses described the wanted man as white with blue eyes and driving a red pickup truck.

As it turned out, the suspects arrested looked nothing like the sketch and a red truck was not involved.

Security consultant Steve Kardian, a retired police detective, explained to Inside Edition how trauma can affect recall of certain events. 

“When they heard the shots they turn, they look, they see the red truck leaving, they don’t see the car that was involved,” he explained. 

He said it is “not uncommon” to make a mistake like that. 

“We see that red truck fleeing at a high rate of speed, that's what we remember,” he said. “You don't see the small car they were in, you see the great big truck. Maybe it was loud, it was big. That's what your eyes tune in to.” 

He added that stress could “absolutely” be a factor in the mistake because “it causes things to get distorted. It causes tunnel vision.” 

Hundreds gathered over the weekend for a vigil near the spot where the young girl was killed. 


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