MARKSVILLE — In addition to second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder charges, two Louisiana law enforcement officers who allegedly shot and killed an autistic 6-year-old boy in November could also face civil litigation.
However, it is uncertain if any civil litigation against is currently in the works.
Marksville Police Officers Derrick Stafford and Norris Greenhouse Jr. opened fire on the vehicle of Chris Few, the boy’s father, following a pursuit. The boy, Jeremy Mardis, was strapped into the front seat of the car at the time of the shooting. Few sustained critical wounds in the incident.
The officers were arrested less than a week after the Nov. 3 shooting; and according to state police, video from an officer’s body cam was the instrumental factor expediting the arrests. Police reports also stated that, in the body camera video, Few apparently had his hands up and "posed no threat to the police" when the officers opened fire.
Stafford and Greenhouse entered pleas of not guilty at a criminal hearing on Tuesday.
“This is a very good example of why body cameras are important, because what we have is the body camera evidence that this man was doing nothing (and) a 6-year old child who was, by definition, doing nothing," Marjorie Esman, Louisiana ACLU director, told the Louisiana Record said. "We all know that we live in a time of massively excessive police force. If there ever was an example of what’s wrong with policing in this country, this is it.”
Esman also pointed out that in the majority of instances involving police shootings we cannot ignore the issue of civil rights.
“We’ve seen a different response in this case, a white family as opposed to black victims” and “we have a recent history in this country in which white victims seem to be more highly valued” under the law, Esman said.
In a public hearing on Nov. 9, 12th Judicial District Judge William Bennett issued gag orders on all parties involved in the case. The next day, Faye Dysart Morrision, attorney for the Department of Public Safety's Office of Legal Affairs, sent out notifications to 11 news organizations denying them public information requests for materials related to the case.
Mardis’ family attorney Mark Jeansonne recently told the Louisiana Record that the gag order had been lifted and that the officers would face separate trials. Stafford is tentatively scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 26 and Greenhouse on Nov. 28.
At the Nov. 9 hearing, Avoyelles District Attorney Charles A. Riddle recused himself from the case due to the fact that Greenhouse’s father is one of his top assistants. The prosecution now will be handled by the state attorney general’s office. The FBI and the Department of Justice are assisting Louisiana state police in its investigation.
Greenhouse and Stafford were moonlighting as deputy city marshals on the night of the shooting. Stafford, a lieutenant, has been on the Marksville police force for eight years and Greenhouse for one year. Both were hired as part-time city marshals approximately three months before the shooting. Early reports indicated that the officers had been serving a warrant on Few, but no evidence of a warrant has been produced, nor was there a gun found at the scene.
The two defendants were initially taken to a jail in Avoyelles Parish, but were transferred to a detention center in Rapides Parish in order to receive better protection from inmates in the general population. Greenhouse has since been freed from jail on $1 million bond. Stafford has remained jailed on a $1 million bond since his arrest.
If convicted on the murder charges, Stafford and Greenhouse could face life sentences without the possibility of parole.