Louisiana investigators are combing through evidence in the shooting death earlier this week of a 6-year-old autistic boy after authorities charged two law enforcement officers in the shooting. Charges brought against police officers in fatal shooting cases have spiked in the past year.
Col. Mike Edmonson, in a late night press conference Friday, said the two officers were being booked on charges of second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder in the Tuesday shooting death of Jeremy Mardis and the wounding of his father, Chris Few, in the central Louisiana town of Marksville.
Edmonson vowed to continue the investigation wherever it leads.
"Let's make tonight about Jeremy Mardis. That little boy was buckled in the front seat of that vehicle and that is how he died," Edmonson said. "He didn't deserve to die like that."
Speaking of the body camera footage that was recovered from the officers, he said: "It is the most disturbing thing I've seen, and I will leave it at that."
The two officers are Norris J. Greenhouse Jr., 23, of Marksville and Derrick Stafford, 32, of Mansura, Louisiana. Both were working secondary jobs in Marksville as marshals when the shooting happened, Edmonson said.
State police have been investigating the Tuesday night shooting that raised questions almost from the start. Earlier this week, The Christian Science Monitor reported:
[The police officers] were chasing a vehicle driven by Chris Few, after he fled from the marshals who were attempted to serve him a warrant. When Mr. Few reached a dead end, he attempted to reverse the car and back into the marshals.
The marshals then opened fire at Few’s car, fatally shooting his 6-year-old son, Jeremy Mardis, who was inside the car at the time. Jeremy was “caught in the line of fire” and died from gunshot wounds to the head and chest, according to Avoyelles Parish Coroner Dr. L.J. Mayeux.
State police are combing through forensics evidence, 911 calls, conducting interviews and reviewing the body camera footage, Edmonson said.
Two other officers were involved in the incident. When Edmonson was asked whether he anticipated any more arrests, he said: "We'll see where it takes us."
It's still unclear what led police to pursue Few and what triggered the shooting. The parish coroner said earlier this week that the officers were serving a warrant on Few when he fled, but Edmonson later said he had no information about a warrant.
Few's 57-year-old stepfather, Morris German, has accused the marshals of indiscriminately opening fire on the vehicle. German said Few was heavily sedated, unable to talk and has bullet fragments lodged in his brain and lung. He described Few as a loving father and added the man's son "was his whole life."
German added that the 6-year-old had been diagnosed with autism, describing him as a delightful child who "loved everything, everybody." German said the boy had no siblings and the family had recently moved to Marksville from Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
"I know a 6-year-old should not have been shot," German said.
The Christian Science Monitor reports that charges brought against police officers in fatal shooting incidents have spiked this year, but despite unprecedented scrutiny on police use of deadly force, researchers are reluctant to suggest an era of heightened police accountability is dawning.
A dozen officers have been charged in fatal shootings this year – the highest number in at least a decade – though data suggest there have been about 800 fatal police shootings this year. During the past decade, less than 1 in 4 of such prosecutions have resulted in convictions.
None of the officers charged this year have been convicted, but the number of prosecutions is up from an average of about five prosecutions a year from 2005-14, according to Philip Stinson, an associate professor of criminology at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, who has been tracking arrests and prosecutions of police officers for more than a decade.