Mississippi officers cleared of shooting death of man and baby

A Mississippi grand jury found no criminal wrongdoing by law enforcement in the shooting death of a black man and his baby after a low-speed highway chase nearly a year ago. year.

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

Media reported that the Harrison County grand jury released its report on Tuesday.

Videos of the shooting showed law enforcement officers firing more than 20 bullets into Smith’s car. Smith died at the scene and the baby died a day later from a gunshot wound to the back, officials said.

Mississippi Public Safety Commissioner Sean Tindell said Tuesday that Smith’s actions were “violent and reckless” and showed no respect for others. Tindell said at one point Smith got out of his vehicle, held the baby to his chest and fired at officers.

“While all of the agencies involved took several steps to prevent this tragic outcome, La’Mello Parker’s life was taken unnecessarily as a direct result of the violent actions of his father, Eric Smith,” Tindell said in a statement.

Activists from several groups, including the NAACP, Mississippi Rising Coalition, Black Lives Matter and the American Descendants of Slaves, demanded answers and demanded transparency in the investigation into the shooting deaths.

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

“That day, state troopers and other law enforcement officers went to great lengths to try to resolve this incident peacefully,” Ginn said. “We continue to mourn the families of everyone involved and will continue to pray for their recovery.

The Department of Public Safety typically investigates shootings by or by law enforcement officers. The Biloxi Police Department investigated the shootings of Smith and La’Mello because state troopers were among those who fired. The FBI analyzed the evidence, including casings collected from the site.

Authorities say Smith left Louisiana after he allegedly shot and killed the baby’s mother, Christin Parker, 32, and her nephew, Brandon Parker, 26, at a home near Baton Rouge.

Smith took the baby and drove to Mississippi, where law enforcement began pursuing him on I-10, authorities said. Officers used spikes to flatten his tires, and he sometimes drove as slowly as 10 mph (16 km/h). At one point, Smith drove into the median of the freeway near an exit.

Lynn A. Saleh