CLEARED: Grand jury clears officers who shot infant during police pursuit on I-10
HARRISON COUNTY, Miss. (WLOX) - The officers who were involved in the tragic death of three-month-old La’Mello Parker nearly a year ago will not face any charges related to the shooting.
That’s according to a Harrison County Grand Jury Report that was released on Tuesday afternoon.
“After full and deliberate consideration of all the facts and circumstances leading up to the May 3, 2021, shooting of Eric Smith and La’Mello Parker, and the circumstances as they existed at the time of the shooting, the Grand Jury finds no criminal conduct on behalf of the law enforcement officers involved,” states the report.
The infant was caught in the crossfire during a shootout between police and the infant’s father, Eric Smith, who also died after being shot by law enforcement.
According to police, Smith killed his ex-girlfriend Christin Parker, 32, and her 26-year-old nephew Brandon Parker in East Baton Rouge Parish earlier that day, then kidnapped the infant. Christin Parker was the mother of La’Mello.
Smith fled east on I-10 with the baby into Hancock County, where deputies laid spike strips, causing Smith’s vehicle to come to a stop in the middle of I-10 near mile marker 11.
According to the grand jury report, which was compiled after members of the jury saw all the evidence in the case, Smith exited his vehicle with the baby clenched against his chest using one hand and held a gun in his other hand. Smith then raised the gun and shot in the direction of officers parked behind his vehicle.
The grand jury watched dash cam video showing Smith getting back into his vehicle and led police on a low-speed chase across I-10. Once he entered Harrison County, other agencies from across South Mississippi joined the pursuit, making multiple attempts to call Smith and get him to surrender. He refused to answer the phone.
At mile marker 40, Smith’s vehicle was forced into the grassy median by a pursuing deputy. The vehicle became stuck in the mud nearly parallel to pursuing officer. The deputy who forced Smith’s vehicle from the road also got his patrol struck in the mud.
The deputy got out of his patrol car, drew his gun, and ran back toward the eastbound lane. The deputy then returned to his patrol car to get his K9 out, putting him in Smith’s line of fire. Smith then rolled down his driver side window, extended a handgun from the window and fired in the direction of the deputy, hitting another nearby patrol unit.
Multiple law enforcement officers then opened fire simultaneously, shooting Smith three times and La’Mello Parker once. The events were captured on video, which the grand jury watched during their investigation.
Smith was pronounced dead at the scene. La’Mello was rushed to a nearby hospital, then transferred to a hospital in Mobile, Ala. He later died because of the gunshot wound.
“The Grand Jury recommends that agencies address procedures in place and implement training related to communication and chain of command in multi-jurisdictional cases,” states the report.
“It was clear from Smith’s violence and reckless actions that he had absolutely no regard for the lives of others,” said Mississippi Department of Public Safety Commissioner Sean Tindell. “although all of the agencies involved took several steps to prevent this tragic outcome, La’Mello Parker’s life was needlessly taken as a direct result of the violent actions of his father, Eric Smith.”
“While we are pleased with the report of the Harrison County Grand Jury in this incident, the tragic loss of La’Mello Parker’s life was unnecessary,” said Director of the Mississippi Highway Patrol Col. Randy Ginn. “On that day, state troopers and other law enforcement officers went to extraordinary lengths in their attempts to resolve this incident in a peaceful manner. We continue to grieve for the families of all those involved and will continue to pray for their healing.”
District Attorney W. Crosby Parker released the following statement on Tuesday:
“The loss of any life is difficult, but the loss of life of La’Mello Parker, an innocent three-month-old, is truly tragic. In Harrison, Hancock, and Stone counties, the District Attorney’s office ensures that all loss of life related to an officer-involved shooting will be fully investigated. The full and complete investigation is presented to a Grand Jury to determine if there is any criminal misconduct.
“In this matter, the Biloxi Police Department, an independent agency, investigated the facts and circumstances related to the death of Eric Smith and La’Mello Parker. A Harrison County Grand Jury reviewed the investigation and found no criminal misconduct by the law enforcement officers involved. The partial report released today contains the Grand Jury’s findings based on its review. Our condolences, thoughts, and prayers continue to be with the family of La’Mello Parker.”
Family members of Christin and La’Mello Parker’s told WAFB in Baton Rouge that they do not agree with the Grand Jury choosing not to charge the officers involved.
“They didn’t do it the right way. They should’ve given the man time to get out the car or something like that, but they took it upon themselves to do what they wanted to do... They should be charged for that,” said LaShunda Parker, Christin’s cousin.
Activists from multiple groups, including the Mississippi Rising Coalition, Black Lives Matter and the American Descendants of Slaves, have pushed since last May for answers, demanding transparency and justice in the investigation.
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