Law enforcement officers were cleared in the fatal shooting of a 3-month-old Louisiana boy who was killed in crossfire between police and his father.
A Harrison County, Mississippi, grand jury said in a partial report that they reviewed the evidence in the March 3, 2021 deaths of La'Mello Parker and his father, Eric Smith, and found "no criminal conduct on behalf of the law enforcement officers involved.” The report was obtained by WXXV-TV.
The grand jury said it "recommends that agencies address procedures in place and implement training related to communication and chain of command in multi-jurisdictional case.”
The father and son were killed after East Baton Rouge deputies responding to a shooting at a Louisiana home found Christin Parker and Brandon Parker dead. Investigators learned that Smith allegedly killed his ex-girlfriend and her nephew, kidnapped La'Mello and fled.
Deputies obtained an arrest warrant for Smith on charges of first-degree murder and kidnapping. They were able to track his location to an area of Interstate 10 by using his cellphone data.
After his vehicle was spotted in Slidell, deputies attempted a traffic stop but it failed. A pursuit began that went into neighboring Mississippi, where law enforcement from that state joined.
A spike strip was used and deflated the tires on the passenger side of Smith's car. He briefly exited the vehicle, grabbing the baby against his chest with one hand and gun in the other, authorities said.
Smith allegedly shot at the deputies, got back inside his car and led law enforcement on a low-speed chase.
"Deputies made multiple attempts to contact Smith in an effort to negotiate a surrender, however, Smith failed to answer his phone," the grand jury report says.
A deputy eventually forced Smith's car into a grassy median, causing both of their vehicles to get stuck in miud. The report says that as a deputy was trying to retrieve his K-9 that had gotten loose, Smith allegedly fired and struck a patrol vehicle.
Multiple officers returned fire, hitting Smith three times. He was pronounced dead at the scene. La'Mello was hit once and died at an Alabama hospital.
Family members for La'Mello could not be reached Friday.
Mississippi Public Safety Commissioner Sean Tindell said Tuesday Smith showed no regard for others and that his actions were “violent and reckless."
"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.
Col. Randy Ginn, director of the Mississippi Highway Patrol, applauded the grand jury's decision but said 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 in a statement. “We continue to grieve for the families of all those involved and will continue to pray for their healing.”