West Memphis police, advocates hold ceremony for 5-year-old who died in hot van

WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. -- On Friday, the West Memphis Police Department, children’s advocates and family members of Christopher Gardner, Jr. celebrated his life with a flag-raising ceremony.

The 5-year-old was killed last month after detectives say he was left alone in a hot van at a daycare.

“We honor him today and we vow to never forget his life," said Lori DeShazo, the director of the Children's Advocacy Center of Eastern Arkansas.

Child Advocacy Center workers came together with West Memphis police to show their support to Christopher Gardner Junior’s family.

“On such a nice day, you can’t help to think Christopher would’ve loved being out on a day like this himself," said Captain Joe Baker with the West Memphis Police Department.

Police say the 5-year-old died last month after workers at Ascent Children’s Health Services left him outside in a hot van for several hours.

Four women have been charged with manslaughter since detectives believe it was a reckless death.

“I promise the family that there is no case that we have that we’re taking more seriously than this," said Capt. Baker.

Police say the daycare turned over the van to them and they’ve continued collecting evidence.

They’ve also built a life-size replica of Christopher they’re using to build their case that one of the workers would’ve seen him had they done their job.

“It would’ve been nearly impossible to miss this child if you were seated in the van," said Capt. Baker.

On Friday, Christopher’s loved ones wore special t-shirts and watched as a children’s memorial flag was raised in his honor in front of the police department. They’ve had the flag for about three years.

Although they do fly the flag during April, which is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, this was the first time raising it for an incident like this.

“I think with this type of incident, whether you know the child or not, this hits all of us really close to home," said Capt. Baker.

He hopes it can serve as a reminder to never leave children alone in a car, as one family tries to cope with tragedy.

The four women charged in this case are scheduled to appear in court again at the end of the month.

Christopher’s family did not want to talk and are filing a civil lawsuit against the daycare.