Family of 2-year-old killed by Joplin police officer in Kansas files civil rights lawsuit

The civil rights of a 2-year-old girl were violated when she was fatally shot by police last March in southeast Kansas, a federal lawsuit filed Friday alleges.

Clesslynn Crawford was killed by a round fired by a Joplin Police Department officer during a hostage situation on March 26, 2022, in Baxter Springs.

Her family is suing the City of Joplin, the City of Baxter Springs and Cherokee County. The shooter, identified as “Sniper One,” is also listed as a defendant.

Officers with Baxter Springs had responded to a domestic disturbance at a residence that day. Eli Crawford, 37, opened the door and then shut it after seeing police, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation said. Clesslynn reopened the door and her mother Taylor Shutte ran outside. The KBI said Crawford stepped outside and shot Shutte, 27.

He also shot at four responding officers, the KBI said. Police retreated and he continued shooting. Additional law enforcement responded, including Joplin police’s SWAT team.

The KBI said Crawford fired more than 90 rounds.

Then a Joplin officer fired a round into the residence. They later located Crawford, the girl’s father, deceased. Shutte and Clesslynn were also found dead.

Nine days after the shooting, the KBI said Crawford died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Clesslynn died from the round fired by the Joplin police officer.

The lawsuit, filed in the District of Kansas, said the girl “had done nothing wrong, had not violated any law, and was not suspected of any wrongdoing whatsoever,” and that the defendants violated her “clearly established fundamental civil rights.” Those rights include the right to be free from unreasonable seizure, the right to bodily integrity, the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, and the right to not be deprived of life without due process.

The lawsuit alleges Baxter Springs, Joplin and Cherokee County failed to adequately train those involved, including the shooter, and that “the supervisors failed to properly supervise the situation.” It also includes a wrongful death claim.

The City of Joplin said it does not comment on litigation. The mayor of Baxter Springs did not return a voicemail seeking comment. Cherokee County did not return a message.