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Family of Clesslynn Crawford sues officer who fatally shot the 2-year-old



Police responding to a domestic dispute in Baxter Springs, Kan., in March 2022 quickly found themselves in a standoff.

In a tense encounter that lasted more than three hours, the armed assailant, Eli Crawford, retreated into a small trailer and fired over 90 rounds using multiple guns at officers, according to police reports. With him was his 2-year-old daughter, Clesslynn. The girl’s mother, Taylor Shutte had died after being gunned down by Eli as officers arrived.

The standoff ended with Eli and Clesslynn Crawford dead. Eli died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound and Clesslynn was killed when a SWAT officer returned fire at Eli, an investigation by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation later found.

On Friday, Clesslynn Crawford’s family sued the three jurisdictions that sent officers to the scene — Cherokee County, Kan.; the city of Baxter Springs, Kan.; and the city of Joplin, Mo. — as well as the unnamed Joplin SWAT officer who fired the round that fatally struck the toddler. The lawsuit alleges that officers from the cities and county failed to properly train and supervise those on the scene.

An attorney representing Carla Crawford, Clesslynn’s grandmother, declined to comment on the lawsuit. A spokesperson for the Joplin Police Department declined to comment. The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, the Baxter Springs Police Department and city attorneys for Joplin and Baxter Springs did not immediately respond to requests for comment.


Officers from Baxter Springs responded to a woman’s request for help in a domestic disturbance at a camping trailer on the evening of March 26, 2022, according to a Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) news release.

Eli Crawford answered the trailer door but slammed it shut upon seeing police, the KBI report said. Shortly afterward, Clesslynn reopened the door, and Shutte ran outside. Eli Crawford then shot and killed Shutte and began firing at the officers, according to the report.

Baxter Springs police did not return fire but requested backup from the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, the Kansas Highway Patrol, the KBI and Joplin police’s SWAT team.

Eli Crawford, using several guns, continued to fire at officers, the report said. About 9:25 p.m., a Joplin officer fired a single round into the trailer.

That round killed Clesslynn Crawford, the KBI report said.

“This is a horrific outcome to what had already started as a very tragic incident,” the Joplin Police Department said in an April 2022 statement, adding that it was cooperating with the KBI’s investigation. “Our heartfelt condolences go out to the families involved and the surrounding community.”

The Joplin officer who fired the weapon was a sniper, according to the Crawford family’s lawsuit. The round struck Clesslynn in the head.


Joplin police described the standoff as a hostage situation in its April statement, but the lawsuit alleges that Eli Crawford had been demanding during the standoff that a family member be allowed to get Clesslynn out of the trailer to keep her safe.

The KBI concluded its report on the shooting in June and passed on findings to the Cherokee County attorney’s office, a spokesperson told The Washington Post. The Cherokee County attorney’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

County Attorney Nathan Coleman told KOAM News in June that he would notify the public once a charging decision was made.

Clesslynn was smart for her age and “would talk to you for days,” an online obituary for her read. She loved Minnie Mouse and dancing and had “the eyes of an angel and a smile that could warm anyone’s heart.”

The lawsuit seeks damages for Clesslynn’s estate and for Carla Crawford, Clesslynn’s grandmother.

Source: Washington Post


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