MARKSVILLE — A Marksville law enforcement officer who allegedly shot and killed a 6-year-old autistic boy following a vehicle pursuit in 2015 was found guilty on a lesser degree of manslaughter on March 24.
Derrick Stafford and Norris Greenhouse Jr., a then-deputy city marshal, were charged with second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder for killing Jeremy Mardis and wounding his father, Christopher Few. Collectively, both officers allegedly fired 18 shots at the vehicle. A third deputy and Lieutenant Kenneth Parnell were also in pursuit during the two-mile chase in Marksville. Parnell’s body camera caught the incident and showed Few with his hands raised inside his vehicle.
“The only time an officer is ever to take out his firearm is when he has a deadly force situation,” attorney Peter Russell of McBride & Russell Law Firm LLC told the Louisiana Record. He is also a former police officer of 11 years. “(Few) was still in control of the vehicle and (Stafford) forced it. You can’t force the situation and then blame the driver. Unfortunately, we’re seeing this more in America as we become desensitized. Every time a cop goes to issue an arrest he whips out his firearm and all we see is him pointing it at people. But that’s not what we’re trained to do. They get away with it most of the time because no one dies or is seriously injured.”
Stafford testified that he didn’t see Few’s hands raised in the air nor the child who sat buckled in the front seat. He claimed Few backed into Greenhouse’s patrol car then threw the car back into reverse when Greenhouse stumbled and fell to the ground as he tried to back away. That’s when Stafford alleged he fired at the car fearing Few might run over his partner.
“We’ve become immune to cops acting poorly in the decision-making process,” Russell said. “You don’t have shootings like this when you don’t put yourself in situations like this. His partner had every opportunity to say 'holster your weapon.' Instead, he helped to heighten the level of risk for both the police officers and the individuals in the car. He didn’t act as a police officer should.
"I hate to say it, but it’s the truth.”
Stafford’s attorneys claimed Few had drugs and alcohol in his system at the time of the shooting. But prosecutors claimed that didn’t justify the deadly response. During the trial, Stafford cried when he saw photographs of the slain child.
“I don’t think police by the very nature of what they do should have any more protections than the average citizen if they participated in a felonious act,” Russell said. “I have great sensitivity for these officers because in Louisiana I think the requirement is something like 200 hours of the law enforcement academy. I don’t know what the intent was, but it’s my belief that this guy should be given the benefit of the doubt and that he’s a good cop, he just didn’t know any better.
"It’s a sad and tragic mistake, which is why he only got (convicted of) manslaughter.”
Stafford’s defense claimed he had 400-plus hours of police training.
Greenhouse is scheduled to go on trial in June.