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Joplin police officer will not be charged in toddler’s death


CHEROKEE COUNTY, Kan. — There will be no charges filed against a Joplin Police Department officer who fired a single shot which resulted in the death of a two-year-old girl during a barricade and hostage incident in Baxter Springs last year. 

The Cherokee County Attorney’s Office released a 37-page report today announcing the findings and conclusions limited to criminal liability of the JPD officer following an investigation led by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) into the use of force event. 

The conclusion of the report, signed by former Cherokee County Attorney Nathan R. Coleman and the newly-appointed Cherokee County Attorney Kurt C. Benecke, was that there was no evidence that could be admissible at trial that would substantiate the officer who fired the shot acted recklessly.

On Saturday, March 26, 2022, at approximately 7:15 p.m., officers from the Baxter Springs Police Department responded after a woman called 911 requesting help at 340 Wyandotte Ave. in Baxter Springs due to an ongoing domestic disturbance. 

When responding officers arrived, they knocked on the door of the residence, which was a pull behind camping trailer. Eli Crawford, 37, of Baxter Springs, answered the door but after seeing it was police, slammed it back shut.

The subjects’ daughter, two-year-old Clesslynn J. Crawford, then reopened the door and Taylor D. Shutte, 27, of Webb City, Missouri, ran outside. Crawford then stepped out and shot and killed Shutte. He also began shooting at the four responding officers. 

The officers retreated to a safe distance without returning fire. Gunfire from Crawford continued. Additional law enforcement support arrived from the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, and JPD’s S.W.A.T. Team. KBI and the Kansas Highway Patrol also responded. 

During the incident, Crawford used several guns to fire over 90 rounds from the trailer at responding law enforcement officers. At approximately 9:25 p.m., an unidentified sniper with JPD’s S.W.A.T Team fired one round into the camping trailer. 

Officers approached the residence and located Eli Crawford deceased inside from a gunshot wound. Shutte and Clesslynn Crawford were also discovered deceased from fatal gunshot wounds. It was later determined that Eli Crawford committed suicide after the shot fired by the JPD officer killed Clesslynn.