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Clesslynn Crawford’s family are suing the officer who shot and killed the 2-year-old


Police responding to a domestic dispute in Baxter Springs, Kan., in March 2022, quickly reached a stalemate.

In a tense encounter that lasted more than three hours, the armed assailant, Eli Crawford, retreated to a small trailer and fired more than 90 rounds from multiple firearms 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 shot by Eli when officers arrived.

The clash ended with the deaths of Eli and Clesslynn Crawford. Eli died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound and Clesslynn was killed when a SWAT officer returned fire to Eli, a Kansas Bureau of Investigation investigation later revealed.

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

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

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

Eli Crawford answered the trailer door but slammed it on seeing police, according to the KBI report. Shortly after, Clesslynn opened the door again and Shutte ran outside. Eli Crawford then shot and killed Shutte and began shooting at the officers, according to the report.

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

Eli Crawford, using multiple firearms, continued to shoot officers, the report said. At approximately 9:25 p.m., a Joplin officer fired a single bullet into the trailer.

That round killed Clesslynn Crawford, according to the KBI report.

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

The Joplin officer who fired the gun was a sniper, according to the Crawford family lawsuit. The bullet hit Clesslynn in the head.

Joplin police described the standoff as a hostage situation in their April statement, but the lawsuit alleges that Eli Crawford demanded during the standoff that a family member be allowed out of Clesslynn’s house. trailer to protect it.

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

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

Clesslynn was smart for her age and “would talk to you for days,” read an online obituary for her. 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.


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