After three hours of deliberation Friday, a Louisiana jury found a former Marksville police officer guilty of manslaughter for the shooting death of a six-year-old autistic boy in 2015.
The jury’s 10-2 vote convicted of Derrick Stafford, 33, of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter, according to reports. Stafford and another officer, Norris Greenhouse, Jr., fired on the boy’s father after a two-mile chase. The boy, Jeremy Mardis, was killed and his father, Christopher Few, was injured.
Fourteen of the 18 shots fired at Few’s vehicle were traced back to Stafford’s gun while the remaining two were traced to Greenhouse’s service pistol. At least three of the shots fired by Stafford struck Mardis. A fourth round that struck the first-grader could not be definitively traced to either officer’s gun. Few was also struck by gunfire and, although seriously injured, survived.
Neither officer was aware that Mardis was in the vehicle when they opened fired and, as captured on body cam footage, the discovery of the child in the car left the officers physically sick at the scene. “Never in a million years would I have fired my weapon if I knew a child was in that car,” Stafford said during the trial.
Prosecutor John Sinquefield showed Stafford a stack of photos of Jeremy’s lifeless body causing Stafford to cry. “Do those photos show you what a .40 caliber Glock will do to a six-year-old boy?” Sinquefield asked, to which Stafford softly replied, “Yes,” with his head slumped down.
Stafford claimed he opened fire as he feared Few was going to use his vehicle to hit Greenhouse, but Few said he never heard any warnings before the shots were fired. Also, dash cam footage shows Few with his hands held up and outside of the car window as shots were fired.
Sinquefield admitted that Few “certainly made some bad decisions” that night, but called the officer’s actions excessive and unnecessary. Prosecutors said Few, who was found to have alcohol, methamphetamine, and Xanax in his system at the time of the shooting, feared losing custody of his son if he was arrested.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said in a statement he was pleased with the verdict. “As we have said all along, our goal in this case was to get justice for Jeremy Mardis, his family, and the people of Louisiana. Today, that happened,” Landry said.
Greenhouse’s trial is scheduled to begin later this year. Both men were originally charged with one count of second-degree murder and one count of attempted second-degree murder.