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Officer charged in killing once fired for poor decisions

The word "police" written on a slate.
Nick Youngson
Alpha Stock Images

A police officer in South Carolina arrested this week after killing a man in an on-duty shooting was fired from a state police unit for nine separate policy violations, including the failure to notify superiors in a timely fashion after shooting her service weapon at two dogs while she was out jogging, court records show.

Officer Cassandra Dollard of the Hemingway Police Department, 52, is charged with voluntary manslaughter for the shooting of Robert Junior Langley after a high speed chase Sunday.

Lawyers for Langley's family said he would still be alive if Dollard were better trained — or held accountable for her poor performance in previous jobs.

"Those gunshots Sunday stole him away from his family and, from the officer who fired the shots to the system that put the gun in her hand, someone has to answer for that," said state Sen. Gerald Malloy, one of the family's attorneys.

Court records show Dollard was fired from the State Transport Police in 2014 and then sued the Department of Public Safety for discrimination. A federal judge threw out the suit, siding with agency lawyers who said in court documents that Dollard had a "well-documented run of extraordinarily poor decision-making."

Dollard was granted a $150,000 bond Thursday and was released from jail less than two hours after the bond hearing.

"Cassandra is very sorry for what happened on Sunday morning and she grieves with the Langley family," defense attorney Rose Mary Parham said.

Dollard was on patrol in her town of 530 people early Sunday when she saw Langley fail to stop at a stop sign early, investigators said.

Dollard chased Langley for 9 miles (14 kilometers) in a pursuit that reached a top speed of 127 mph (204 kph), Solicitor Jimmy Richardson said at Thursday's bond hearing.

Langley missed a turn, crashed into a ditch and was trying to get out of the passenger side of his car when Dollard shot him, Richardson said.

"She had seen the look in his eyes and she thought she was in trouble and that's why she felt the necessity to fire a fatal shot," Richardson said.

Dollard told investigators she feared for her life, but also that she never confirmed he had a weapon. No weapon was found at the shooting scene, according to an arrest warrant.

Investigators have not said whether Dollard reported the chase to dispatchers or if any other officers were chasing Langley or coming to her aid.

Dollard's lawyer said she has little money and asked for a reasonable bond.

"Cassandra is very sorry for what happened on Sunday morning and she grieves with the Langley family," defense attorney Rose Mary Parham said.

Dollard is African American, as was Langley.

Dollard faces two to 30 years in prison if she is convicted.

Dollard has been a police officer in South Carolina for all but one year since 1994, according to South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy records, working for six agencies and being fired twice.

She started working in Hemingway in September. The town has not responded to phone messages asking if she is still employed and other details.

The State Transportation Police fired her in 2014 after eight years, saying in the court papers her job performance started to rapidly slip.

After internal investigators confirmed she punched a woman's broken down car when she struggled to follow instructions to get it off the interstate and violated several agency policies when pulling over a truck including not reporting to dispatchers, the agency reviewed all video from Dollard's recent shifts.

That examination found nine ways Dollard violated the department's rules in less than five months, according to court records.

The worst violation was waiting six hours to report to her supervisor she fired her police gun at two dogs while jogging, the agency said.

Dollard also failed to call in traffic stops numerous times to dispatchers, did not wear her body armor and improperly charged a driver with running a stop sign when they actually committed the more serious violation of passing a stopped school bus, according to documents.

Neither Dollard's lawyer in her criminal case nor the lawyers in the discrimination case returned phone calls or emails about her previous employment.

During Thursday's bond hearing, Langley's mother told the judge her son, who was a father of 10 and worked at a chicken processing plant, meant the world to her.

"I love my son with all my heart. And when they called and told me that he was killed, unjustifiably, it killed me and his family," Roslynn Langley said, wiping tears from her eyes.


AP Researcher Jennifer Farrar in New York contributed to this report.