First Look

Louisiana cops that shot 6-year old: A pattern of excessive force?

The two deputy marshals have had a string of charges filed against them in the central Louisiana justice system.

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    Pallbearers carry the casket of 6-year-old Jeremy Mardis to the grave site at Beaumont Cemetery in Beaumont, Miss., 30 miles east of Hattiesburg, Monday, Nov. 9, 2015. Jeremy Mardis, a 6-year-old autistic boy, was killed and his father wounded when marshals opened fire on their vehicle in Marksville, La. on Nov. 3. Louisiana State Police announced late Friday that they had arrested the two marshals in the shooting.
    (Eli Baylis\Hattiesburg American via AP)
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The officers charged with the shooting death of a 6-year-old boy diagnosed with autism in central Louisiana have been defendants in several lawsuits for excessive use of force or standing by in an assault case.

At a time when the nation is closely scrutinizing claims of excessive force by law-enforcement officers, Louisiana officers Derrick Stafford and Norris Greenhouse Jr. are being held on $1 million bond on charges of second-degree murder of Jeremy Mardis and attempted second-degree murder of his father, Chris Few. 

The bond hearing on Monday was the latest in a long string of encounters with the central Louisiana justice system for the two deputy marshals. Stafford was sued by a woman in 2012, who claimed that he shocked her with a stun gun while the woman was in handcuffs. Another 2012 lawsuit alleged Stafford broke a girl's arm while breaking up a fight on a school bus. 

Both Stafford and Greenhouse are being sued by a man who says the officers used excessive force when arresting him at a festival last year. An additional lawsuit claims Greenhouse and Stafford "stood idly by and did nothing" when a fellow officer "assaulted" a teenager at a Fourth of July celebration in 2013, the Associated Press reports.

Last year a Louisiana jury awarded $50,000 to a man who accused Stafford of arresting him in retaliation for filing a complaint against the officer.

One 2011 indictment charged Stafford with the rape of a 15-year-old in 2004, when he was 21, and the rape of another individual in 2011. Those charges were later dismissed, though court documents do not indicate why. 

Anthony Radosti, vice president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission in New Orleans, told the AP that use of force complaints should be a "red flag" for a police department to examine if an officer needs to be disciplined or possibly provided further training.

"Even smaller departments should have an early-warning system," said Mr. Radosti, a retired New Orleans police officer.

Stafford is a full-time lieutenant with the Marksville Police Department, and Greenhouse is currently a full-time city marshal. Initial reports of last Friday's shooting stated the marshals were attempting to serve Mr. Few with a warrant when he drove onto a dead-end road and then reversed his car toward the two marshals.

Col. Mike Edmonson, head of the Louisiana State Police, has since tempered that account, saying there was no evidence of a warrant or any gun found at the scene.

Few was shot and remains hospitalized, and the encounter killed his son Jeremy. Few's lawyer, Mark Jeansonne, told the AP on Monday that footage from a police body camera showed that Few was holding both of his hands up and did not appear to be a threat when the officers opened fire, directing at least 18 bullets at the vehicle. 

Following the bond hearing, the officers were moved from the jail in Marksville to a lockup facility in Alexandria in central Louisiana.

In addition to the footage captured on the officers' body cameras, investigators are looking at forensic evidence and 911 calls.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report 

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