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Jury Selection Begins in Police Killing of Autistic Boy

Jury selection began Monday in the trial over the November 2015 police shooting death of an autistic, six-year-old boy following a high-speed car chase involving his father.

(CN) – Jury selection began Monday in the trial over the November 2015 police shooting death of an autistic, six-year-old boy following a high-speed car chase involving his father.

In a lawsuit filed in October, the family of Jeremy Mardis claim the boy's father, Chris Few, who was behind the wheel the night of the shooting, had no idea why the police started chasing him.

That chase came to an end when Few mistakenly turned onto a dead-end street.

Bodycam video footage of what transpired next shows Few with his hands raised in the air, and then, after a volley of gunfire, collapsed and bleeding on the ground. The motionless body of his son, meanwhile, remained strapped in to the front passenger seat.

Derrick Stafford is one of the two deputies charged with second-degree murder in connection with Mardis’ death. Jury selection in his trial began on Monday in a Marksville, Louisiana courtroom.

The other deputy facing charges is Norris Greenhouse Jr. His trial is not scheduled to begin until June.

Prosecutors say the bodycam footage captured by a third officer, Sgt. Kenneth Parnell III, shows Few didn’t pose a threat to the deputies as they approached his car.

Parnell did not open fire on the father and son.

During a news conference last year, Louisiana State Police Col. Mike Edmondson said the bodycam video was the most disturbing thing he had seen.

“Any objectively reasonable officer would and should have concluded that deadly force was not necessary or justified, as no imminent threat of death or great bodily harm existed when Stafford and Greenhouse began firing,” Mardis’ family says in its lawsuit

The 14-minute video only shows the tail end of the chase and had no audio for the first 27 seconds, during which some of the shooting had already begun.

Seven minutes pass in the video before Parnell walks over to car and checks on the boy, finding a faint pulse.

Later, Parnell can be seen putting on surgical gloves before walking back to the passenger side of the car.

“Oh my God,” he is heard saying as he looks in on the boy.

Minutes later, a paramedic can be heard announcing the boy is dead.

The lawsuit filed by Mardis’ family says the officers holstered their weapons before handcuffing Few. A fact, they say, that shows they did not feel they were in imminent danger.

But defense attorneys for the deputies say Stafford and Greenhouse Jr. acted in self-defense. They say Few was driving recklessly when officers first saw him, and that he rammed Greenhouse's car at the conclusion of the two-mile car chase.

A state police detective has said there isn’t evidence that Few’s car rammed Greenhouse’s, but he also said it cannot be ruled out as a possibility, according to a report from the Associated Press.

Investigators traced 14 shell casings collected at the scene to Stafford’s gun, and four casings to Greenhouse’s gun. Three of the four bullet fragments found in the boy’s body matched Stafford’s gun. The fourth fragment came back as an inconclusive match to the gun of either officer.

Defense attorneys also said Few's state of mind prior to the incident will be considered during the trial. Stafford’s lawyers maintain Few had drugs in his system and had attempted suicide just days earlier.

Jonathan Goins, one of Stafford’s attorneys, has said race is an issue in the case. Both of the charged deputies are black; Few is white, and so was Mardis.

"I don't think there would have been such a rush to judgment if the officers had been white," Goins told the AP.

Both Stafford and Greenhouse have been sued in the past over what plaintiffs claimed was their use of excessive force.

Stafford was briefly suspended in 2011 after he was indicted on rape charges, which were subsequently dropped, the Associated Press reported.

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Categories / Criminal, Government, Regional, Trials

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