Father of dead 3-year-old says her death could have been prevented
The Long Beach police officer who left her daughter alone in a patrol car for four hours Friday while she “visited” with her shift supervisor has faced disciplinary action in the past.
The toddler was found unresponsive in the vehicle and was pronounced dead at Hancock Medical Center in Bay St. Louis.
Police Chief Wayne McDowell said Tuesday that Cassie Barker, 27, was suspended last year for one week without pay and her one-year probationary period as a new police officer at the agency was extended for an additional 90 days as a result.
That incident occurred in May 2015, less than a year after she joined the police department as a rookie in September 2014. She got her training as a police officer in Jacksonville, Florida, then interned at the sheriff’s department there from August to December in 2011. She joined the Long Beach Police Department in September 2014 and underwent additional training.
“I can’t get into details but there was conduct violations,” McDowell said Tuesday, adding that what happened then seemed pertinent enough to him to relay the information to Hancock County sheriff’s deputies investigating the death of Barker’s 3-year-old daughter, Cheyenne Hyer.
Barker was cited then, he said, for conduct unbecoming of a police officer and failure to abide by all laws in any city, state or municipality.
“There was circumstances around that disciplinary action that I felt were pertinent (to the current investigation into the child’s death),” McDowell said, though he noted he could not go into specifics about what happened.
Hancock County sheriff’s deputies have been investigating since Friday, when Barker’s daughter was left alone in her mother’s police patrol car while Barker was “visiting” with one of her shift supervisors, Sgt. Clark Ladner, 36, at his home off Standard-Dedeaux Road in Kiln. The child was strapped in a baby seat.
Hancock County Chief Investigator Glenn Grannan said Tuesday the investigation is continuing and appropriate action will be taken once it’s completed. Deputies are also working determine if criminal charges will be filed.
Barker and Ladner are on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of the investigation, McDowell said Monday.
“Somebody is going to be accountable for the baby’s death,” Grannan said Tuesday. “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 said he learned what happened after Ladner called the police department to tell them what was going on.
Ladner, he said, called to say that someone from Long Beach police “needs to get up there, that there was a bad situation at his house.”
“My understanding is he had already contacted Hancock County 911,” McDowell said, “and I believe they were already on the scene before he made that call.”
The call came in between 12:30 p.m. and 1 p.m. Friday. Cheyenne was pronounced dead a short time later. Barker, authorities said, was distraught and has been under medical care since then.
McDowell’s eyes welled up with tears as he talked about the child.
“It’s very upsetting all the way around,” he said. “It’s such a sad and tragic situation that should have never occurred. She (Cheyenne) was a very happy, joyful, little girl.”
The death has had a negative impact on all the Long Beach police officers who worked with Ladner and Barker.
“It’s very hard on my officers still,” he said. “We are devastated. Many of the employees are ticked off (and) very upset with the officers involved.”
In addition, he said, the incident places a negative light on all of the other 49 employees of the department, 34 of whom are sworn police officers.
“What one officer does affects the perception of the whole police department,” he said.
Since the death occurred, his office has been conducting its own internal investigation to determine the employment of both police officers.
Among the police rules and procedures, he said, is officers are only supposed to use their patrol cars to transport a child — for example, to child care — on their way to and from work.
Barker and Ladner had just gotten off a night shift working together that Friday morning before the two ended up together at Ladner’s home.
Ladner, he said, indicated he went home and Barker showed up unannounced a short time later. Ladner told investigators he didn’t know the child was in the car while Barker was inside with him.
McDowell said he can’t comment on the officers’ future employment status, but did say action will be taken.
As a father and new grandfather, McDowell said the toddler’s death has hit him hard and his hope is that “justice be served.”
“Personally, as I said earlier, there is no excuse for it and I believe those responsible should be held accountable,” McDowell said. “If that means charges, it means charges.”
Ryan Hyer, father of Cheyenne Hyer, has created a GoFundMe account to help with burial expenses.
Check back with SunHerald.com for updates to this story.
Long Beach officer biographies
Patrolman Cassie Barker, 27, studied law enforcement while she lived in Jacksonville, Florida. Her first job was as an intern at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Department from August to December 2011. She joined the Long Beach Police Department in September 2014 and underwent additional police training in Mississippi. In May 2015, she was suspended for one week without pay for two rule violations. One was for conduct unbecoming of a police officer and the other was for failure to abide by all local, state and federal laws
Shift Sgt. Clark Ladner, 36, joined the Long Beach Police Department in December 2008 and advanced through the ranks to become one of two supervisors on the night shift. Barker was among those under his command. Ladner previously worked at the Bay St. Louis Police Department from November 2006 to November 2008. He received law enforcement training in Mississippi.
Long Beach Police Department