A 3-month-old boy was fatally shot when a multiagency police pursuit of his father, who was suspected of killing two people in Louisiana, ended in gunfire in Mississippi on Monday.
The Harrison County coroner's office told BuzzFeed News on Wednesday that the boy, whose name was not released by officials, died from a single gunshot wound. He was pronounced dead at a hospital early Tuesday. His father, 30-year-old Eric Derell Smith, was pronounced dead at the scene and died from multiple gunshot wounds, according to the coroner.
Multiple law enforcement agencies were trying to stop Smith as he drove east along Interstate 10 in a blue Nissan Altima when the pursuit entered the coastal city of Biloxi, Mississippi, according to Major Chris De Back of the Biloxi Police Department, which is now investigating the shooting. At mile marker 40, Smith drove into the grass median and became stuck, De Back said. Shots were then fired.
De Back told BuzzFeed News he could not say if Smith fired any of the shots or if a gun was recovered from the scene, though authorities believe he had access to a gun earlier in the day. Officials also would not say who fired the shot that killed the baby.
In an earlier press release, officials said Smith was exiting his car when the gunfire began, but he was actually still in the driver's seat when the shooting occurred, De Back said. The investigation is ongoing.
Authorities believe Smith was responsible for another fatal shooting hours before the chase. Officials responded to "a 911 hang up call" around 11:30 a.m. Monday in Baker, Louisiana, where they found Smith's ex-girlfriend — the baby's mother — Christin Parker, 32, and her nephew Brandon Parker, 26, shot to death, the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office said in a statement. The sheriff's office identified Smith as the suspect and said he had fled the area with the child.
Video of the end of the pursuit showed a fleet of law enforcement vehicles closely following Smith's car as it moved slowly down the highway before one squad car pushed the blue Nissan into the median.
Patrisha Ramos, a witness who watched the shooting unfold from her vehicle, told WLOX she could see 30 to 50 cop cars following Smith.
“The thing that came into my mind was the infant in that car,” Ramos said. “Maybe something else could have been done. I don’t know. It’s such a sad, sad thing.”
Anchors for the local TV station said they could hear at least 20 gunshots in footage that witnesses shared with them. De Back said he could not confirm how many shots were fired or who had fired their weapons.
Mississippi Highway Patrol Major Johnny Poulos told BuzzFeed News in an email that the troopers involved in the incident have been placed on administrative leave. He did not answer questions about how many troopers were involved or whether any of them had fired their guns. WLOX reported that the Harrison County Sheriff's Office and the Gulfport Police Department have also each placed one officer on leave.