Two Louisiana police officers have been charged with second-degree murder in the death of 6-year-old Jeremy Mardis, an autistic boy who was fatally shot by the officers while they were chasing his father’s SUV Tuesday night, police say.
Marksville Police Lt. Derrick Stafford and reserve officer Norris Greenhouse Jr. were also charged with attempted murder. They were taken into custody Friday night, Louisiana State Police Colonel Michael Edmonson said at a press conference.
“Nothing is more important than this badge that we wear on our uniform,” Edmonson said at the press conference. “The integrity of why we wear it, because the public allows us to wear that. It’s not a right, it’s a privilege. And tonight that badge has been tarnished.”
Stafford, 32, and Greenhouse, 23, were moonlighting as marshals for Avoyelles Parish Ward 2 when they pursued Mardis’ father, Chris Few, and opened fire on his vehicle. Two other officers, Lt. Jason Brouillette and Sgt. Kenneth Parnell, were also involved in the shooting, but have not yet been charged.
Few, 25, who was not armed, was also wounded in the shooting and remains hospitalized. His son was shot multiple times and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Greenhouse, also a full-time Alexandria city marshal, is the son of a civil attorney in the local district attorney’s office, which has recused itself from the case as a result, the Town Talk of Alexandria reports.
The officers appeared in court for the first time Monday and were held on $1 million bail.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Few Had His Hands Up Before the Officers Opened Fire, His Attorney Says
The arrests were made after investigators reviewed body camera footage from the scene. Investigators also interviewed witnesses and recovered forensic evidence from the scene.
At a press conference Friday night, State Police Colonel Michael Edmonson said the body camera video was “the most disturbing thing I’ve seen.”
On Monday, Few’s attorney told the Associated Press the body camera footage shows Few had his hands up in the air before the officers opened fire, shooting him and killing his son.
Mark Jeansonne, Few’s attorney, told the AP, “this was not a threatening situation for the police.”
Few’s fiancee, Megan Dixon, told The Guardian newspaper on Thursday she watched what led up to the shooting.
Dixon said she saw the two marshals’ black and white cars approaching Few’s vehicle from behind as he pulled away from a bar where they had been talking. She said she saw Few point toward his son, indicating he was in the car and didn’t know what to do.
Few was afraid of the marshals because he had a prior personal conflict with one of them, Dixon told The Guardian.
2. It’s Still Not Known Why the Officers Were Chasing Few
Several key details of what led to the shooting have still not been made public. The officers involved in the shooting have not yet been interviewed by investigators, police said.
The marshals initially said they were trying to serve a warrant on Few, but state police have not been able to find a warrant out for him.
The shooting happened at about 9:30 p.m. at the end of the chase. It’s also not yet known when the incident started.
According to the Acadiana Advocate, Few has several traffic violations and a recent DWI conviction, but there were no outstanding warrants or ongoing criminal cases in Marksville city court or the area district court. Police and the district attorney said they were not aware of any outstanding warrants for his arrest.
The shooting happened on Martin Luther King Drive in Marksville, a city of 5,700 in Avoyelles Parish.
Avoyelles Today initially reported the marshals cornered the suspect in his vehicle. Few then put his vehicle in reverse and struck the police vehicle, the news site reported. The officers exited their vehicle and fired their duty pistols through the driver’s side window.
But on Thursday, State Police Colonel Michael Edmonson, the head of the department, denied that Few had put the vehicle in reverse, saying “no, I didn’t say that. That didn’t come from me,” according to The Guardian.
On the night of the shooting, the officers were moonlighting as city marshals.
The marshals work for the city courts and serve warrants, according to the Associated Press. They carry firearms and have police powers. Their boss is Ward 2 Marshal Floyd Voinche Sr., a local bus driver who was recently re-elected.
He told the The Advocate two of the marshals were serving warrants Thursday and the third was working on traffic patrol. Marksville is in Ward 2, which also has its own police department and is patrolled by the state police.
John Lemoine, the city’s mayor, said Voinche hired deputies and bought patrol cars about three months ago, and they started issuing citations, including traffic tickets, in Marksville, which Lemoine told the Advocate is beyond the marshal’s normal role. He said city officials haven’t been able to get an explanation from Voinche.
“You can’t get in touch with him; he’s never come before us,” Lemoine told the newspaper. “There’s no communication.”
Lemoine wrote a letter to the state’s attorney general in September asking for a legal opinion on whether the marshals have the authority to write citations in the city. The attorney general has not yet responded.
3. Stafford & Greenhouse Are Both Named in an Ongoing Use of Force Lawsuit Against Marksville Police
The four officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave, The Advocate reports.
Lt. Derrick Stafford, Lt. Jason Brouillette and Sgt. Kenneth Parnell are full-time police officers for the city of Marksville, and Greenhouse is a reserve officer and deputy marshal with the Alexandria City Marshal’s Officer.
The Marksville Police Department does not have a use of force policy, according to The Advocate.
Stafford and Greenhouse are both named in a federal lawsuit filed against the Marksville police (you can read the lawsuit above). A man named Ian Fridge said he was tackled by officers and hit with a stun gun while he was at a Fourth of July event in Marksville.
Fridge, an open carry advocate, says in the lawsuit he was carrying a gun openly when the officers grabbed him from behind. Fridge said the officers took his cell phone and deleted the video he took of the incident. The case, filed in late July, is still pending.
4. Stafford Was Charged With Aggravated Rape in 2011
Stafford was indicted on two counts of aggravated rape in 2011, while he was a Marksville police officer, according to the archives of the Alexandria Town Talk. Stafford, of Alexandria, was indicted by a Rapides Parish jury, the Town Talk reported at the time. The then 28-year-old was accused in that case of raping two different women in assaults occurring in 2004 and 2011.
The case was dismissed without prejudice in 2012, meaning the charges could be brought again, the Town Talk reports.
5. The First Grader at a Local Elementary School Was ‘Caught in the Line of Fire’
Jeremy Mardis was “caught in the line of fire,” Avoyelles Parish coroner Dr. L. J. Mayeux told the Associated Press.
The Acadiana Advocate reports the shots all came from outside the vehicle and through the driver’s side.
According to The Guardian, orange spray paint marked the orientation of Few’s car and three police vehicles on Thursday.
“The particular placement of the cars – and a spray of glass from the passenger’s side of Few’s car – seems to indicate Few was not backing toward the officers. His car was perpendicular to them, and the officers’ shots hit the driver’s side broadside,” the newspaper reports.
Jeremy was a student at Lafargue Elementary School in Effie, The Advocate reports.
Blaine Dauzat, the Avoyelles School District’s superintendent, told Avoyelles Today grief counselors were sent to the school Wednesday to assist students and school employees. He also expressed grief over the boy’s death.
“Tonight is about the death of Jeremy Mardis. Jeremy Mardis, 6 years old,” Colonel Michael Edmonson said at the press conference announcing the arrests. “He didn’t deserve to die like that and that’s what’s unfortunate.”