Grieving families of slain 5-year-old share their emotion - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Grieving families of slain 5-year-old share their emotion

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5-year-old Cadence Harris, of Leavenworth. 5-year-old Cadence Harris, of Leavenworth.
LEAVENWORTH, KS (KCTV) -

Tragedy is rocking two towns in Kansas after a 5-year-old girl was killed during a dangerous high-speed chase and tense standoff.

The family of Cadence Harris is consumed by grief.

"She was the happiest kid ever," said Alice Jones, Cadence's aunt. "She was always moving, running, jumping, playing. She was always happy."

Floyd Harris, Cadence's grandfather, says his daughter, Christina Harris, Cadence's mom, is suffering.

"She's torn up. There's been a lot of drama in the past few years," Harris told KCTV5 News.

Jones said her sister didn't deserve this, but justice will out. "The truth will come out with the autopsy," Jones conveyed.

The Kansas Bureau of Investigations is now heading up the inquiry including the actions of the officers in the shootout with the suspect. While authorities have not identified the suspect, sources and family members have identified him to KCTV5 as 30-year-old Marcus McGowan.

Leavenworth Police Chief Pat Kitchens said Saturday morning that investigators could not rule out that the little girl was killed during the cross fire between officers and McGowan, a family friend who had allegedly kidnapped her.

But KBI officials said they have determined that Cadence was not struck by a bullet fired from an officer's service revolver.

"There is one important fact that I can discuss with you," said Mark Malick, KBI special agent in charge said Saturday afternoon during a news conference. "We are early in the investigation. But there is no evidence that indicates at this time that the vehicle or our victim were struck by any gunfire from law enforcement."

Witnesses had indicated to KCTV5 Friday night that the suspect had shot the little girl before he turned his weapon on officers. Kitchens said investigators have reviewed dash cam video of the shootout.

"What I can tell you definitively on the videotape – he pointed his gun at officers. That's what perpetrated the shooting," he said.

McGowan is undergoing treatment at a Kansas City area hospital for his gunshot wounds. Authorities say his injuries are serious, but he will survive.

Norma Campbell, McGowan's grandmother, calls the incident devastating.

"Cadence was just a happy-go-lucky little girl, a sweetheart," Campbell shared.

Campbell says she offered to have Cadence and her mother come live with her. She says they were trying to get back on their feet, and that Harris and McGowan had a complicated relationship.

"That was my grandchild, and that's the way we looked at that," Campbell said.

Campbell said she remembers Harris and McGowan fighting Friday night. She said Harris called police and McGowen drove off with Cadence. But, Campbell said she doesn't believe her grandson intended to kidnap the girl.

"I don't know what happened. But he really loved her. That was his heart," Campbell told KCTV5 News.

Campbell added that her grandson battles mental illness, and that he called her just before his confrontation with police.

"He just kept calling me and saying he was tired. He was intending to die. He really was," said Campbell.

McGowan is being held on an arrest warrant for failure to appear in court, which gives prosecutors time to sort out what charges to file against him and in which jurisdictions. He was due in court in regards to a domestic violence incident involving Cadence's mother, according to court records.

McGowan has found himself in trouble with the law before. In 2010, he pleaded guilty to two counts of criminal threat and obstructing justice, a case that involved the young girl's mother. He was sentenced to 14 days in jail plus probation. When he didn't show up for jail and other violations, he was sent to prison for six months.

McGowan is still on probation for those original charges. When he didn't make his July payment for fines and didn't show up to his hearing, a bench warrant was issued on Thursday, the day before Friday's tragedy in Leavenworth.

McGowan's family members have said McGowan was dating Cadence's mother and had lived together in Atchison with McGowan's family members.

It all began Friday night when McGowan allegedly abducted Cadence from Atchison, KS. Police say the two knew each other and were acquaintances, but wouldn't specify their relationship.

Authorities said they chased McGowan from Kansas into Missouri and back. Law enforcement officials from Platte County were among those that joined the chase. Leavenworth police picked up the chase about 7:30 p.m. Friday.

McGowan crashed into construction barricades at 20th and Metropolitan in Leavenworth. After he crashed his SUV through the barricades, the man was involved in a short standoff.

Witnesses said officers retreated to a defensive position before opening fire on the suspect.

Investigators spent most of Saturday interviewing witnesses and gathering evidence at the crime scene including determining when the little girl died.

"I just want to clear up, it's not as certain as what was being reported last night, which is that it happened there. We're still working on a lot of those details," Chief Patrick Kitchens said. "What we're going to do is go through the scene very clearly. There's a difference between doing a crime scene at night and during the day...we'll be in a much better position to understand the evidence at the scene."

At some point Cadence was shot and killed, but the details surrounding her death are unclear as police continue to uncover new details. An autopsy was started Saturday on Cadence.

"There was initial reporting the suspect, while at the scene, shot the victim in the car. We are not sure that's exactly what happened," Kitchens said. "A lot more information is made available when the technicians can see and can get a better sense."

Kitchens said authorities tried to stop McGowan twice and never had time to send out an Amber Alert for Cadence because events unfolded so quickly. Kitchens said law enforcement agencies on both sides of the state line cooperated with each other in the search for the little girl and the suspect.

The two officers who fired the shot have been placed on paid administrative leave. Counseling has also been made available to the officers and first responders at the scene who have been touched by the tragedy.

Horrified witnesses described seeing the final outcome unfold.

"It's just shocking that they put children in harm's way like that, you know. Children shouldn't be put into any kind of dispute. There's too much going on around here, too much killing as it is already," Irma Adams said.

Neighbors say they are sick over what happened to the little girl and the town of 35,000 people has been left in shock. They said they knew something wasn't right when they saw the police chase end. They describe seeing the ambulance shut its lights out and they knew someone wasn't going to make it.

"You never think things like that would happen close to home and it's just shocking," Adams said.

A man who says he knew McGowan from high school also witnessed the end of the chase and is still trying to put everything together in his mind a day later.

"It kind of put it all together. You wonder what happened in Atchison to make him run this way and you kind of want to hear the whole story. You want to know what's going on…it's unreal, really, to me, still," said the man who would only go by Adam.

Adam said the entire scene seemed like it was a television show and not real.

KCTV5's Bonyen Lee, Amy Anderson, Brix Fowler, Jonathan Carter and Chris Oberholtz contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.

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