Police fired one round during the two-hour standoff.
Police in Kansas fired a single shot during a hostage situation — and accidentally killed the two-year-old hostage.
According to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, 37-year-old Eli Crawford fired more than 90 rounds at officers after shooting his wife, 27-year-old Taylor Shutte, right in front of them.
Over two hours after the stand-off started, an officer fired one shot in response, and fatally struck the suspect’s daughter, Clesslynn Crawford.
The incident occurred shortly after 7 PM on March 26 in Baxter Springs, when a woman called 911 requesting help during a domestic disturbance.
When officers arrived at the camping trailer, they knocked on the door. Eli Crawford answered the door, but after seeing it was police, slammed it back shut.
His two-year-old daughter then re-opened it and her mother ran out. That’s when police say Crawford stepped outside and shot her dead as she fled. He then opened fire on the four responding officers.
The officers managed to retreat to a safe distance and take cover, and did not return fire, as Crawford continued to shoot at them. They said he fired more than 90 rounds using several guns.
The Baxter Springs PD officers radioed for back-up, which came from Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, and Joplin Police Department’s S.W.A.T. Team; the KBI and Kansas Highway Patrol also responded.
According to the KBI, which is investigating the incident, at approximately 9:25 PM — two hours and 10 minutes after the standoff began — a Joplin Police officer fired a single round into the residence.
When officers eventually approached the home, they found three dead bodies.
Shutte, lying just outside the camper, died from “multiple gunshots fired by Eli Crawford,” KBI said.
“It is believed that Eli Crawford, 37, died of a single, self-inflicted gunshot wound. The investigation indicates that 2-year-old Clesslynn Crawford died as a result of the single round fired by an officer from the Joplin Police Department.”
No law enforcement officers were injured during the shootout.
“The KBI will conduct a thorough and independent investigation into this shooting,” the KBI said in its statement Monday. “Once it concludes, the findings will be presented to the Cherokee County Attorney to determine if criminal charges will be filed.”
“Autopsies are scheduled. The investigation is ongoing.”
In a statement to the Joplin Globe, Joplin PD Chief Sloan Rowland confirmed the KBI’s findings that the child was killed by his SWAT team.
“This is a horrific outcome to what had already started as a very tragic incident,” he said. “Our heartfelt condolences go out to the families involved and the surrounding community. We ask that you pray for the victims and everyone involved.”
The statement did not address why the officer took the shot.
Clesslynn was buried on Wednesday.
“Clesslynn was full of life and had a very bubbly personality. She was very loving and always happy,” the child’s obituary read. “She was extremely smart for her age and loved putting a smile on everyone’s face.”
“Clesslynn loved Minnie Mouse, her binky, and never passed up a chance to dance. She would talk to you for days and was the definition of ‘A BOSS BABY’. She always loved to cuddle, and although little, she was very fierce. Clesslynn had the eyes of an angel and a smile that could warm anyone’s heart. There was never a dull moment around this sweet girl.”
It is not the first tragedy to befall the family: in February of 2020, Clesslynn’s 8 and 6-year-old cousins Kynzee and Laynee Norris were killed in a house fire, that their older sister and grandfather managed to escape.
The damage was so bad, investigators were never able to determine a cause, although a burning wood stove was suspected.