Recorded on police body cam footage firing his gun at an unarmed father and his 6-year-old autistic son, a former Louisiana law enforcement officer was sentenced this week to 40 years in prison for killing the innocent boy and an additional 15 years for attempting to murder the boy’s father who had placed his empty hands in the air. Although Marksville City Marshal Derrick Stafford claimed he opened fire to protect a fellow deputy’s life, the video clearly shows none of the officers’ lives were at risk when Stafford began shooting.
On November 3, 2015, Stafford and deputy marshal Norris Greenhouse Jr. began following Christopher Few’s SUV and attempted to pull him over because Few reportedly had an outstanding warrant. But according to the District Attorney’s Office, Clerk of Court, Marksville Police Department, and City Court, Few had no outstanding warrants against him.
Instead of immediately pulling over, Few led police on a two-mile chase before abruptly parking his vehicle and placing his empty hands in the air. As a fellow officer recorded the incident on body cam video, Stafford and Greenhouse suddenly fired 18 bullets at Few and his 6-year-old son, Jeremy Mardis.
Diagnosed with autism at the age of two, Jeremy had been sitting in the front passenger seat next to his father when at least four bullets struck him. Three of the bullet fragments recovered from the boy’s body had been traced back to Stafford’s gun while a fourth fragment remained inconclusive.
Two other officers at the scene did not fire their guns because they admittedly felt that the use of lethal force was not justified. According to the video, Few appeared to have surrendered when Stafford and Greenhouse opened fire at a safe distance from his parked vehicle.
Six days after the shooting, Few regained consciousness on the day of his son’s funeral. Few later testified that he never heard the officers issue any warnings before firing at him and his son.
“Once I put my hands up, that shows surrender to anybody,” Few stated ahead of the sentencing. “He just kept shooting, kept shooting.”
On March 24, a jury convicted Stafford on charges related to the attempted murder of Few and the death of his son. On Friday, Judge William Bennett sentenced Stafford to 40 years in prison for killing Jeremy and an additional 15 years for attempting to kill the boy’s father.
“Our police officers are trained to protect and serve the public,” Judge Bennett wrote in a statement at the time of the sentencing. “They are certainly entitled to use force in their defense when there is an imminent danger or threat of the officer receiving death or great bodily harm. The jury obviously found that Officer Stafford was not in imminent threat of danger of receiving death or great bodily harm at the time that the trigger was pulled.”
Facing a separate trial for the second-degree murder of Jeremy Mardis and the second-degree attempted murder of Christopher Few, Greenhouse is scheduled to begin his trial on June 12.