The police officer whose gunfire hit a 1-year-old boy in Houston violated department protocol when he opened fire while pursuing a suspect, lawyers for the infant’s mother said during a press conference Tuesday morning.
Legend Smalls, the baby hospitalized with life-threatening injuries from the shooting earlier this month, is in the intensive care unit and has problems breathing and moving as a result of the shooting, local news outlet Click On Houston reported.
Ben Crump, one of the attorneys representing young Legend’s mother, announced during the press conference that there will be a lawsuit against the Houston Police Department. He said the 15-year veteran officer whose gunfire hit Legend opened fore without properly identifying the target, which is inconsistent with police policy.
The shooting happened at about 1:30 p.m. on March 3 as the still-unidentified officer chased a robbery suspect who crashed the car he driving into a gas station. Police said they feared the armed suspect would jump into a nearby car belonging to Legend’s mother, who was pumping gas at the time. Police said when the suspect didn’t respond to orders to drop the gun, the officer opened fire, killing the suspect but also hitting Legend, who was shot in the right side of his head.
Doctors, who had to remove part of Legend’s skull to relieve the swelling, were able to dislodge the bullet but not all of the fragments.
Legend’s mother said during the press conference Tuesday that her son never should have been the victim of such violence.
“My baby didn’t deserve to be shot, especially by the police,” Daisha Small said.
Police have said that the officer was not aware there was a child in the backseat.
The shooting in Houston happened as politicians and law enforcement agencies alike struggle to agree on how and when to hold police accountable for their actions.
The Supreme Court in 1989 set a national legal precedent for when it’s acceptable to use deadly force against a fleeing suspect.
Graham v. Connor established that determining when using lethal forces is acceptable “must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene.” In other words, hindsight is irrelevant.
That case was cited to defend Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown in 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Wilson was ultimately never indicted for the high-profile shooting that is largely credited with sparking the Black Lives Matter movement as we know it today.