MARSKVILLE, La. (CN) – A former Marksville, La. sheriff’s deputy has been convicted of manslaughter in the shooting death of a six-year-old autistic boy, and of attempted manslaughter for the wounding of the boy’s father in 2015.
A jury convicted Derrick Stafford, 33, and also a part-time city marshal, by a 10-2 vote Friday following nearly three hours of deliberation.
Stafford and another officer, Norris Greenhouse Jr., were each charged with second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder after they chased a Kia sport utility vehicle driven by Christopher Few, 26, onto a dead-end street shortly after 9 p .m. on November 3, 2015, and opened fire on the car, seriously wounding Few and killing his son, Jeremy Mardis, who sat strapped into the passenger seat.
Together, Stafford and Greenhouse fired 18 rounds at father and son, and testimony during the questioned why the officers had been chasing Few to begin with.
John Sinquefield, one of the prosecutors, described the shooting of Few and Mardis as “an execution” during closing arguments, and said that while “Few certainly made some bad decisions,” the police officers’ actions were nearly incomprehensible.
Sinquefield also said that judging from footage captured the night of the incident — footage in which Few is seen coming to a complete stop at an intersection before starting off driving again — he would hesitate to even call what happened a chase.
“I’d call it a parade,” Sinquefield said.
Video footage recovered from a police camera worn by nonparty officer Kenneth Parnell appeared to show Few inside his SUV, unarmed and with his hands raised in the air upon stopping at the dead end, before the officers opened fire.
Attorneys for the officers said the shooting was in self-defense after Few attempted to run the officers down, but during trial last week, Few denied allegations he ever attempted to hit the police.
“I had no delusion of … getting away from the police,” Few said.
Instead, Few said, he was unsure if he was over the legal blood alcohol limit because he had had a couple drinks earlier in the evening with his girlfriend. He said it was out of concern that he would be arrested, and what would happen to his son if he was, that he refused to pull over.
The chase covered about two miles and lasted a little over five minutes. Few said he stopped his car as soon as he reached the dead end, and that he never heard commands from the officers until shots were already flying toward him.
“I immediately had my hands in the air but they kept firing,” Few said.
He said he was heavily sedated after being taken to the hospital after the shooting, and that he only learned his son had been killed a week later. It was the same day as Jeremy Mardis’ funeral.
Stafford’s partner that night, Jason Brouillette, told prosecutors that he never fired his weapon that night or felt personally threatened.
Later, however, Brouillette also said he stood by a written statement he had given after the shooting that said Few had used his SUV “as a weapon.”
“All I can answer for is me,” Brouillette said when asked by prosecutors whether Stafford seemed to be in direct danger when he fired his gun. “I wasn’t in direct threat then, no.”
But during cross-examination, Brouillette said the only reason he didn’t open fire himself was he was concerned he might wound Parnell, who he believed was in his line of fire.
During his own testimony, Stafford said he hadn’t realized there was a child in the car with Few. Stafford said he opened fire in self-defense.
“Never in a million years would I have fired my weapon if I knew a child was in that car. I would have called off the pursuit myself,” he said
Stafford also said he did not see Few’s hands in the air, and that he thought Few had thrown his car into reverse, as if he planned to back into the officers.
“I felt I had no choice but to save Norris [Greenhouse]. That was the only reason I fired my weapon,” Stafford said.