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A Las Vegas father whose toddler died after being trapped inside a locked vehicle in hot weather initially prevented authorities from smashing the window because he couldn’t afford the repairs, police said.
Las Vegas police arrived at an address in the city’s north end after Sidney Deal, 27, locked his keys in his car on the street, along with his 1-year-old daughter, Sayah, around 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 5.
Deal allegedly denied officers’ offers to phone a tow truck or a locksmith, or to break the window of his car, claiming the air conditioning was on and that his daughter was asleep, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
When Deal’s brother arrived on scene and also attempted to smash the car’s window, Deal again allegedly prevented him from doing so, once more complaining about damages to his car.
“[The brother] immediately took his shirt off, wrapped it around his knuckles and was ready to punch the window,” according to an arrest report obtained by the Review-Journal. “Sidney stopped him and said he wanted to wait for a tow truck. Sidney insisted he not damage his new vehicle, stating he had just bought the car and did not have the money to repair a broken window.”
“The dad said that the A/C was on and the kid was playing, and when the officers arrived, they saw that she was breathing,” Larry Hadfield, a spokesperson for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, said. “But when the officers got concerned for the child’s well-being, they broke the window.”
When the toddler was pulled from the car about an hour later after police eventually shattered Deal’s car window, her body was in “rigor mortis,” according to an arrest report. Police described the car as a “high heat environment,” according to the Las Vegas Sun. She was later pronounced dead, and an autopsy is pending.
The Las Vegas father’s girlfriend later told law enforcement that she spent upward of 20 minutes on the phone with a locksmith but that Deal ultimately declined the company’s services because the price was too high.
Deal was later booked into a Clark County detention center on one count of child abuse and neglect, according to online jail records.
“Expect most often, if you’re not going to break that window yourself, expect the police will be breaking windows,” Lt. David Valenta of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police told the Review-Journal. “There absolutely needs to be a sense of urgency” to immediately get a child out of the vehicle.”
The temperature on the day of the 1-year-old’s death was in the high 90s, Valenta said.
“That is still too hot to have a kid unattended in a vehicle,” he added.
Bystanders, however, who witnessed the incident, claimed authorities also struggled to break into the vehicle. One woman alleged police even asked her for a clothes hanger to gain entry to Deal’s car.
“I don’t understand why police didn’t bust that window open first,” Shellie Ratliff, 64, told the Review-Journal. “You can always get another car, but you can’t get another life.”
Artavia Wilson, Deal’s mother, also disputed law enforcement's version of events and questioned why police didn’t access the car sooner. She denied that her son was negligent.
“That’s totally not true,” Wilson told KLAS-TV. “The police officers were there when I spoke to him yesterday.”
Wilson described her son as a “very responsible young man.”
“My son is a great father,” she added.
Others who know Deal also described him as an otherwise loving parent.
“I honestly believe it was a tragic accident,” neighbor Darius Jones said. “I can genuinely say that since that baby was small, he’s loved her. I’ve never seen a bad time when he had that little girl in his possession.”
Deal is being held on a $20,000 bond, online jail records show.
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