Protesters walk for justice for child killed in 2022 standoff

Apr. 29—About 20 protesters marched in downtown Joplin and at the intersection of Seventh Street and Range Line Road on Saturday calling for justice and accountability for a child and her mother killed in a police standoff in Baxter Springs, Kansas, in 2022.

Family members of Clesslynn Crawford, 2, and her mother, Taylor Shutte, 27, Webb City, were among the protesters. Both were killed in what started as a standoff in March of 2022 between Clesslynn's father, Eli Crawford, and the Baxter Springs Police Department.

"We're still mourning the loss of the child and my sister," said Tedra Nichols, Joplin, Taylor Shutte's sister.

"Two years, it doesn't get easier and there hasn't been any kind of accountability or justice given for an innocent two-year-old life. We want to see this officer be held accountable. Accountability is where we're at with this ..."

The protest lasted about 90 minutes or so on Main Street with participants walking the sidewalks between Second and Seventh streets holding signs, some reading, "I won't be quite so you can be comfortable," and "#justiceforclesslynn."

Around 2 p.m. they moved to the intersection of Seventh Street and Range Line Road.

Austin Hagston, an organizer of the protest, said accountability is the key for everyone at the protest.

"This is just an outrage that nothing happened," Hagston said "There's no closure, there's no accountability, there's nothing."


The standoff on March 26, 2022, was the result of a domestic disturbance call to Crawford's trailer home in the 300 Block of Wyandotte Avenue in Baxter Springs.

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation investigated the shooting and reported that Baxter Springs police went to the address in response to a woman's 911 call for help. Eli Crawford answered the door when officers knocked but slammed it shut when he saw police.

Crawford's daughter, Clesslynn, reopened the door and her mother, Shutte, ran out of the trailer, leaving the girl behind. As she fled, the father stepped outside, shot her multiple times and began shooting at the four police officers there, according to the KBI.

The officers retreated a safe distance without returning fire, even though Crawford kept shooting at them, the KBI said. Shutte died of her wounds where she had collapsed.

Baxter Springs police put out a mutual aid request that brought the Joplin SWAT team, as well as Cherokee County deputies, the Kansas Highway Patrol and the KBI, to the scene. According to court documents, the Joplin Police Department was told that a suspect had killed his wife and was holding a child hostage.

Crawford fired more than 90 rounds at officers while refusing to come out of his home, the KBI reported.

Court filings state that a Joplin Police SWAT officer had been given authority to take a lethal shot if he were able to obtain a line of sight on Crawford.

The KBI investigation said the sniper reported that he saw what he believed was a male figure pass back and forth before the window and stop on the left side of the window frame. The report cites the following as the sniper's description of what happened next:

"I was presented with his upper torso and his arm. And I could tell it was that, because I could see the triangle of light between his left — his torso and his arm. I aimed at the left side of the frame of the window without hitting the framed — without hitting the frame, and I aimed up to where I thought it would be about his pectoral region and I fired a round.

"I reloaded. Just seconds later, there was a muffled shot. It didn't sound like a normal gunshot I had been hearing. The other two snipers on the west side, watching the front door, came over the radio and said they heard a muffled, a muffled, or a round fired from inside."

The investigation, including autopsies on all three bodies, determined that the sniper's round killed the girl and that her father then killed himself, according to the report.

The Cherokee County attorney's office declined to file charges on the Joplin police sniper. The county attorney's office released a 37-page report detailing the KBI probe of the shooting.

The report states that because the sniper mistook the girl for her father and reasonably perceived her to be the aggressor in the incident, he is entitled to immunity and cannot be held criminally liable for her unintended death. The county attorney's office did consider if a charge of involuntary manslaughter might apply, but decided the evidence turned up by the KBI probe was "not indicative of recklessness."

A longer KBI report has not been released to the Globe, despite numerous requests since the shooting.

Lawsuit settlement

The girl's grandmother, Carla Crawford, and her grandfather, Richard Anderson, filed a lawsuit over the girl's death about a year ago in the U.S. District Court of Kansas.

The lawsuit alleged that the father asked the law enforcement officers to allow him to send the girl out of the trailer, but the KBI's report of preliminary findings released in April 2022 made no mention of any demand by the father to have the girl removed from the scene.

But the lawsuit states that he "had been demanding that a family member be allowed to get (her) out of the trailer for purposes of keeping her safe."

The family and the city of Joplin, the city of Baxter Springs and Cherokee County settled the lawsuit in November of 2023 for $1.5 million, with the city's insurer paying $1.4 million, the city of Joplin paying $100,000 out of a self-insurance fund and Baxter Springs and Cherokee County paying $50,000 each.

Nichols, the mother's sister, said at the protest that the system failed her sister and her niece.

"Clesslynn had a very loud personality and Taylor was fun, full of life, she was a great mom," Nichols said. "I feel like the system failed my sister, too. She had to file for several restraining orders and they let her lay there and bleed out. There's a bunch of stuff they could have done to help her."

The Kansas Bureau of Investigations investigated the tragic standoff after it was over.

Name disclosure

The officer who fired the shot filed a lawsuit against the city of Joplin to prevent the city from disclosing his name. That lawsuit is still pending in Jasper County Circuit Court. It seeks a permanent injunction to prevent release of his name to the public. He is listed in the lawsuit as John Doe.

His name has never been released.

Lawsuit documents state that the release of his name "is reasonably likely to pose a clear and present danger to the safety" of the officer and perhaps his family. The lawsuit contends that because of the danger, Missouri law requires the name be closed and redacted from any record.

Sam Zeff, a National Public Radio reporter for Kansas City affiliate KCUR, is among those who filed as an intervenor in the case to oppose the closure. He has sought the name from the city in an open records request and asks that the lawsuit be dismissed.

The city contends there is a disagreement on whether the records containing the officer's name are still subject to litigation and cannot be made public except by a judge's order.