Political News

Prosecutors: Deputy hurt others before boy's fatal shooting

Posted September 20

— A deputy city marshal awaiting trial for murder in the fatal shooting of a 6-year-old boy has shown a pattern of using excessive force on other people who didn't pose a threat, according to Louisiana prosecutors.

Attorney General Jeff Landry's office argues in a court filing that jurors at Derrick Stafford's trial should hear evidence that he hurt people without justification before the shooting that killed Jeremy Mardis and critically wounded his father, Christopher Few, in Marksville last November.

The filing says the prior "bad acts" of Stafford, a Marksville police lieutenant, include using a stun gun on a handcuffed man without warning and on a young mother who was already secured in a police car during separate 2011 arrests. It also says Stafford broke a 16-year-old girl's arm while breaking up a fight on a school bus in 2012.

"Stafford, as evidenced by both the charged offense and other bad acts the state seeks to introduce, is motivated to use excessive violent force against individuals he interacts with during the course and scope of employment with the law enforcement agency he works for," prosecutors wrote in last week's filing.

State District Court Judge William Bennett is scheduled to hear arguments next Wednesday on the prosecutors' request ahead of Stafford's Nov. 28 trial. One of Stafford's lawyers didn't immediately respond to a call and email seeking comment.

Stafford and Norris Greenhouse Jr., a former Marksville police officer, were moonlighting as deputy marshals on the night of the Nov. 3 shooting. Prosecutors say Greenhouse didn't tell a dispatcher — and still hasn't told investigators — why he began pursuing Few's car.

In the same court filing, prosecutors also disclosed new details of its investigation that led to second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder charges against Stafford and Greenhouse.

State Police have said the deputies opened fire on Few's car after the pursuit, which was joined by a third deputy and Marksville Police Sgt. Kenneth Parnell III. A police report says video from Parnell's body camera shows Few's empty hands were raised and visible inside the vehicle when gunfire erupted. The boy was strapped into the front seat.

Prosecutors said the video also shows that Stafford and Greenhouse fired from "a safe distance," and that Few's car was backing away from them.

"It also shows Greenhouse and Stafford firing from a position perpendicular to the driver's side," their filing adds. "And perhaps most important, it shows Few with his hands in the air pleading for the officers to stop firing. They did not."

Stafford emptied his magazine of hollow point bullets, and investigators traced 14 shell casings to Stafford's semi-automatic handgun, prosecutors said. Four other shell casings recovered at the scene came from Greenhouse's gun, they added.

"Of the four projectiles that were recovered from young Jeremy Mardis, three were forensically matched through scientific analysis to Stafford's weapon," the filing says.

State Police Col. Mike Edmonson cited the video when he announced the arrest of the two officers, calling it the most disturbing thing he's seen. Prosecutors have provided copies of the video to their defense attorneys, but the recording has not been publicly released.

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