MARKSVILLE, La. – A Louisiana marshal has been found guilty of manslaughter for the shooting of a young boy who was killed in the passenger seat of his father’s car after a police pursuit, prosecutors said Saturday.
Derrick Stafford was also convicted of attempted murder for the November 2015 shooting that killed 6-year-old Jeremy Mardis and wounded his father, Christopher Few, according to Avoyelles Parish District Attorney Charles Riddle. The boy was hit by five bullets.
Stafford and another deputy city marshal attempted to pull over Few, who led them on a two-mile car chase before the officers opened fire.
Stafford took the stand hours before his conviction, testifying that he was defending fellow officers when he opened fire.
“It makes me feel horrible,” Stafford said of the incident, according to CNN affiliate KALB. “I have children the same age.”
Jeremy, a first-grader, was buckled in the front passenger seat of Few’s car when he was shot.
Stafford told the jury: “Never in a million years did I know a child was in that vehicle. I would have called off the pursuit myself. That is the truth.”
Stafford said he feared Few would throw his car in reverse and run over another officer.
However, prosecutors said the officers were a safe distance from the car and weren’t in any danger.
In September, a Louisiana judge released bodycam video showing officers firing multiple rounds into the car.
In the graphic footage, an officer appears to say, “I don’t know who all fired,” to which another officer respond, “I fired.”
Few, who was behind the wheel of a small white car, was hit. He presented his hands to the officers and eventually, slowly, crawled out of the car to lie on the asphalt.
Later, an officer is heard saying, “I never saw a kid in the car, bro.” The officer wearing the camera responded, “Yeah, he’s, ahh … the kid is …” but doesn’t finish his sentence.
During Stafford’s testimony, a prosecutor handed the defendant a photo of the dead boy and asked, “Does that show you what a 40 caliber does?”
Stafford cried on the stand at that point, KALB reported.
At Stafford’s sentencing, the boy’s father, Chris Few, didn’t speak about Jeremy during his impact statement. However, he said that he should have pulled over that night.
Stafford was sentenced to 40 years for manslaughter and 15 years for attempted manslaughter.
Another marshal, Norris Greenhouse, 23, was also indicted on second degree murder and second degree attempted murder charges. Greenhouse will be tried later this year.