On the evening of March 3, 19-year-old Daisha Smalls was stopped at a Chevron gas station in southwest Houston refueling her car, with her 1-year-old son Legend sitting in a car seat in the rear of her vehicle when an armed man suddenly appeared out of nowhere and came running towards her.
According to Anna Bauman of the Houston Chronicle, the man was the suspect of a potential robbery. He demanded Smalls get out of the vehicle and let him take it but she refused. Immediately after, “Smalls saw flashing blue-and-red lights and heard sirens as officers surrounded her car. Then, before she knew what happened, the shooting started.”
Bauman reported that a Houston police officer identified as E. Garza opened fire at Smalls’ sedan, killing the man who sat on top of Smalls and putting a bullet in the baby’s head.”
In a press conference on Tuesday, March 16, Smalls said “My son has been fighting every day for his life. My baby didn’t deserve this. My baby didn’t deserve to be shot — especially not by the police.”
Speaking after Smalls, civil rights attorney Ben Crump said that two weeks after the incident, “the infant remains in pediatric intensive care and doctors have described his prognosis as ‘wait and see’ and ‘hope for the best.’” As investigation on the case continues, Crump said his team plans on filing a lawsuit against the Houston Police Department because of the recklessness of what happened that evening.
“Doctors removed the bullet from the baby’s brain, though fragments remain,” Bauman wrote. “Part of the boy’s skull was removed to alleviate pressure from brain swelling” and “the infant was on a ventilator for more than 10 days and has suffered many seizures. Smalls has hardly left her baby’s side.”
For his part, Crump condemned the police department’s decision to shoot towards the car in well-lit conditions and under close range, putting innocent bystanders at risk and not knowing who might have been inside the vehicle.
“Why would the police not respect her life?” Crump asked. “They knew she was in the car, this innocent black woman, but yet they started shooting in the car.”
“Right now in America, we’re talking a lot about when it comes to African Americans, that police often shoot first and ask questions later — and they don’t do that to other citizens,” Crump added.
A respected personal injury lawyer, Crump has represented numerous victims of police brutality in other high-profile cases, including the family of George Floyd. He has called for the city to fully release all body-camera footage from the officers as well as any other available surveillance footage.
While Houston police have called for continued prayers for Legend and his family, many experts believe the department has gone against its own policies in its handling of the case.
In an interview with Antonio Romanucci, who is working with Crump on his case, the Chicago attorney told Bauman that “he thinks the officer who discharged his weapon violated the department’s own policy for using deadly force only in objectively reasonable circumstances.”
“We know you do not shoot unless you know what your target is. And, clearly, the Houston police did not know their target because they hit Legend squarely in the skull — not a graze wound,” Romanucci told Bauman. “There was grave potential for injury to citizens and that’s exactly what happened, so under their own rules, this was not a justified shooting.”
According to Bauman, a full internal police investigation into the details of the case is ongoing and the officer who shot the infant has been placed on administrative leave.