A US man killed in a shootout with police in Temple Hills, Maryland, while his 3-year-old daughter was beside him appears to have fatally stabbed and shot the girl before he died, authorities say.
Police identified the man as Frederick Roy Miller, 38, of Landover, Maryland. Court records identify his daughter, who was a passenger in the car her father drove while firing at police, as Laila Miller.
The chase began Saturday afternoon (local time) after Miller allegedly shot Laila's maternal grandfather and great-grandmother at a home in Fort Washington, Maryland. Both were hospitalised in critical condition Sunday.
Police initially said they were not sure whether officers knew the girl was in the car when they fired at it, nor whether she was killed by a bullet fired by her father or by one of the six officers who returned Miller's fire during the chase.
Dean Jones, president of the Fraternal Order of Prince George's County Police, said Sunday morning that the officers involved in the shooting were "all hurting right now".
"They're wondering if they're the one that hurt the child," Jones said. "They were trying to do the right thing, and it didn't go well at all."
But late Sunday afternoon, police said initial findings from the Maryland state medical examiner indicated that it was Miller who had harmed the toddler.
Jones said that the initial shooting involving the girl's grandfather and great- grandmother may have stemmed from a custody battle between the child's parents. The child's mother was not at either scene and was found unharmed afterward, police said.
No one answered the door Sunday at the mother's Fort Washington home, where the two relatives were shot. The home, a tidy split-level in a quiet subdivision near Crossland High School, showed little sign of the violence it had hosted the day prior.
Court records illustrate a long-running dispute between Miller and Laila's mother, one that included requests from the mother for protective orders against Miller and a December 2012 destruction-of-property complaint filed by the great-grandmother against Miller.
Litigation over custody of Laila began six months after her birth in January 2011, court records show. Judges over the years consistently ruled that the girl's mother should have custody of Laila; Miller initially had weekend visitation rights, then was restricted to supervised visits.
A woman who answered the door at Miller's address Sunday said the long battle over Laila's custody and child support had taken a heavy toll on Miller, who had gone to members of Congress, the Department of Veterans Affairs and others for assistance in getting custody of the child.
"He contacted anybody and everybody to ask for help. . . . All he wanted was to see his daughter," said the woman, who identified herself only as a "close family relative."
Miller's relative did not know why he went to the house in Camp Springs on Saturday where Laila and her mother lived. She said Miller had family members in the area and he might have driven past the house and seen his daughter there.
The relative pointed to a monetary dispute that may have aggravated relations between Miller and Laila's mother. Court records show a Maryland Circuit Court judge ordered the mother to pay Miller more than US$11,000 (NZ$12,900) in November after finding that the child received Social Security disability payments owed to Miller that exceeded the amount of child support he would otherwise be obliged to pay.
"They didn't want to pay the money the court ordered [the mother] to pay him back," the relative said.
Miller, the relative said, was a disabled Marine veteran and had worked as a technician for Verizon but was recently unemployed. His daughter was his only child, she said, but Miller had helped raise many of his 23 nieces and nephews.
A man leaving the Miller residence Sunday afternoon declined to comment, only shaking his head when told police suspected Miller of harming his daughter.
A next-door neighbour, Stephanie Bailey, said she never knew Miller to be violent, saying he regularly helped out with yard work and "always had a smile on his face."
"I know that he was struggling through the court system to get access to his daughter for a very long time," she said.
Bailey said she was skeptical of reports the Miller might have harmed Laila. "I wouldn't believe that," she said. "I really wouldn't."