GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) — Protesters are demanding justice for a baby who died in May after Mississippi law enforcement officers unleashed a torrent of gunfire into a car driven by his father, who was wanted in the killing of the baby's mother and another person in Louisiana.
Jeremy Parker, the uncle of 3-month-old La’Mello Parker, joined protestors Wednesday outside the headquarters of the Gulfport Police Department, one of the agencies involved in the chase, WLOX-TV reported. Parker noted that, prior to the shooting, the tires on the car driven by Eric Derell Smith had already been flattened.
“I just want to know why y’all shot that car up like that and y’all know the little baby was in there," Parker said.
On May 3, Mississippi Highway Patrol troopers, Gulfport police and Harrison County deputies pursued a car driven by Smith on Interstate 10 after it crossed from Louisiana to Mississippi. Smith, 30, was suspected of killing his ex-girlfriend Christin Parker and her 26-year-old nephew in Baker, Louisiana, and then fleeing with La'Mello.
Videos from drivers on the interstate show officers fired more than 20 rounds into the car. Biloxi Police Chief John Miller has said the officers started shooting after Smith shot at them.
Smith died at the scene, and La'Mello died the next day in an Alabama hospital. An autopsy determined the baby died of a single gunshot wound.
Biloxi Police Capt. Brian Dykes said Saturday that the investigation continues, and information will be given to the Harrison County district attorney’s office when it is complete. He said he could not estimate when that might happen.
Smith and La'Mello were Black, and activists have questioned whether race played a role in officers' shooting into the vehicle.
The infant’s family and members of the Biloxi NAACP, Black Lives Matter Mississippi, Yo Gulf Coast, Mississippi Rising Coalition and ADOS Mississippi are demanding transparency from law enforcement about the investigation, the Sun Herald reported. They want authorities to say whether the bullet that killed La’Mello came from an officer’s gun.
Reginald Virgil, president of Black Lives Matter Mississippi, said it’s time for law enforcement officers to be held accountable.
“We don’t feel safe or respected when police act with the excessive force and disregard for life and public safety," Virgil said. "Worse, the law enforcement agencies involved have not been transparent with us when we voice our concerns and frustration and try to get answers. We are the taxpayers who pay their salaries. Black lives matter. La’Mello’s life mattered.”
The Sun Herald filed a public records request in May with the Biloxi Police Department. The newspaper reported that investigators had received results of a forensic test on the bullet that killed La'Mello. An attorney for Biloxi police provided three pages of an incident report, but excluded two other pages cited as being exempt from public disclosure because they are investigative reports.