Mississippi Officers Cleared in Deaths of Suspect, Baby

(BILOXI, Miss.) — A Mississippi grand jury has found no criminal fault by law enforcement officers in the shooting deaths of a Black man and his baby after a low-speed highway chase nearly a year ago.

Eric Smith, 30, and his 3-month old son, La’Mello Parker, were killed after officers chased Smith on Interstate 10 last May 3. Authorities said Smith was suspected of killing two people, including his son’s mother, in Baker, Louisiana, before driving into Mississippi.

According to news outlets, the Harrison County grand jury released Tuesday’s report.

Videos of the shooting showed law enforcement officers firing more than 20 rounds into Smith’s car. According to officials, Smith died on the spot and the infant later died from an injury to his back.

Mississippi Public Safety Commissioner Sean Tindell said Tuesday that Smith’s actions were “violent and reckless” and showed no regard for others. Tindell stated that Smith once got out of the vehicle and held his baby close to his chest before shooting at officers.

“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,” Tindell said in a statement.

Multi-group activists, such as the NAACP and Mississippi Rising Coalition, Black Lives Matter, and American Descendants of Slaves have demanded answers and transparency during the investigation into the shooting deaths.

Col. Randy Ginn, director of the Mississippi Highway Patrol, praised the grand jury’s decision but said in a statement that “the tragic loss of La’Mello Parker’s life was unnecessary.”

“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,” Ginn said. “We continue to grieve for the families of all those involved and will continue to pray for their healing.”

Shootings of police officers or law enforcers are usually investigated by the Department of Public Safety. Biloxi Police Department investigated the shootings of Smith and La’Mello because state troopers were among those firing shots. FBI reviewed evidence collected from the spot, which included shell casings.

Authorities said Smith had left Louisiana after allegedly shooting and killing the baby’s mother, Christin Parker, 32, and her nephew, Brandon Parker, 26, at a home near Baton Rouge.

Smith, who was driving the baby, drove to Mississippi where police began to pursue him on I-10. He drove at 10 mph (16 km/h) sometimes, according to officers. Smith was seen driving into an interstate median, near an exit.

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