A Mississippi police officer who left her 3-year-old to die in a patrol car while she “visited” with another officer had been previously disciplined for similar conduct.
Chief Wayne McDowell, of Long Beach police, declined to describe the previous incident but said Officer Cassie Barker had been suspended last year for one week without pay for the conduct violation, reported the Sun Herald.
The 27-year-old Barker left her daughter alone in the police cruiser Friday while she went into the home of her shift supervisor, Sgt. Clark Ladner, after working together overnight.
The child, Cheyenn Hyer, was found unresponsive and pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
Barker and the 36-year-old Ladner were placed on administrative leave without pay during the investigation, which remains underway.
“Somebody is going to be accountable for the baby’s death,” said Glenn Grannan, the chief investigator for Hancock County. “There isn’t a reason so far that has happened that would indicate that Cassie wouldn’t be held accountable in some way under the guidelines of Mississippi’s criminal code, but it’s our responsibility is to look at all the information.”
McDowell, the police chief, said Barker had previously been disciplined in May 2015, less than a year after she joined the police department as a rookie, after she was cited for conduct unbecoming of a police officer and failure to abide by all laws in any city, state or municipality.
He said that case was “pertinent” to the investigation into her daughter’s death, but he declined to say how.
The chief said Ladner called him and asked him to send an officer from the department because “a bad situation” had happened at his house, but McDowell believes that call came after the pair called 911.
The department allows officers to transport children on their way to and from work, but Ladner said Barker showed up unannounced after their shift, and he didn’t realize the girl was strapped in her car seat in the vehicle.
“It’s very upsetting all the way around,” McDowell told the newspaper, as his eyes welled with tears. “It’s such a sad and tragic situation that should have never occurred. She was a very happy, joyful, little girl.”
He said the other officers in his department, which has 49 employees and 34 sworn police officers, were angry at Ladner and Barker, who could be fired.
“We are devastated. Many of the employees are ticked off, very upset with the officers involved,” McDowell said.