MARKSVILLE, La. (The Daily Advertiser)– A civil lawsuit filed Thursday by the family of Jeremy Mardis against Marksville, Avoyelles Parish and multiple individuals seeks damages for what it calls “a barbaric and excessive use of deadly force” during which the 6-year-old boy “suffered immensely.”
The federal lawsuit was filed in Alexandria by attorneys for Christopher Few, Jeremy’s father who was seriously wounded in the Nov. 3, 2015, shooting; and mother Catherine Mardis and Few’s sister, Candace Few, who owned the Kia Sport her brother was driving that night.
The list of defendants is far longer. It includes Norris Greenhouse Jr. and Derrick Stafford, the two former Marksville Ward 2 deputy marshals facing second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder in the case. Both pleaded not guilty and are facing separate trials.
But the lawsuit also names as defendants Marksville City Marshal Floyd Voinche, the Marksville City Court, the town of Marksville, Avoyelles Parish, Progressive Paloverde Insurance Company and the other two officers involved in the chase of Few that night — Jason Brouillette and Kenneth Parnell III.
Progressive Paloverde is the automobile liability coverage carrier used by the Marksville marshal’s office.
The lawsuit notes that both Christopher Few and Jeremy were unarmed and that Few had his hands up before shots were fired. All of the 18 shots fired came from Greenhouse’s and Stafford’s guns. Few was hit two or three times in the head and chest, according to the lawsuit, while Jeremy was hit four or five times in his head and neck.
Few, though seriously wounded, recovered. Jeremy was alive for minutes after the shooting, but died still strapped into the front passenger seat of the Kia.
“During this time, Jeremy was bleeding profusely and suffered immensely due to the gunshot wounds,” reads the lawsuit.
Video from the body camera worn by Parnell shows Few with his hands up, as well as Greenhouse and Stafford shooting. The lawsuit called it “a barbaric and excessive use of deadly force” that showed the two officers’ “deliberate indifference to the constitutional rights of Jeremy and Christopher.”
The video was released after it was introduced during a motion hearing in late September by the prosecution. The case is being prosecuted by the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office after the Avoyelles Parish District Attorney’s Office recused itself days after the shooting. Greenhouse Jr. is the son of an Avoyelles assistant district attorney.
An official reason for why Greenhouse was pursuing Few never was released by officials, although defense attorneys for both have stated during recent hearings that Few was standing in a road and blocking traffic. They also said that Few ignored Greenhouse’s commands and left the scene, starting the chase.
But the lawsuit claims the basis for the chase is unclear, and also contends that Few did not present a danger to the officers when it ended at the intersection of Taensas Street and Martin Luther King Drive. It acknowledges that neither Brouillette, another deputy marshal, and Parnell, a Marksville Police Department sergeant, fired their weapons.
And it states that, based upon the position of all vehicles at the end of the chase, Few’s car “— even if it were moving forward or backwards — did not and could not have presented
an imminent threat of death or great bodily harm to any of the officers at the scene or innocent bystanders.”
Officers should have determined that the use of deadly force wasn’t necessary in this case, it states.
“Moreover, at the time the pursuit of Christopher was initiated, and thereafter during the pursuit, none of the officers had reasonable or probable cause to believe that Christopher had committed some crime, was committing a crime or was about to commit a crime,” it reads. “The pursuit was unlawful, as was the subsequent use of deadly force.”
The lawsuit also states that none of the officers on the scene provided any medical aid or comfort to either Few or Jeremy. It also says that Few, who can be seen on the video stumbling out of the Kia without any assistance after officers’ commands, was handcuffed sometime after the shooting.
Though the officers shortly discovered that the boy was inside the car, the lawsuit states that they must have believed that he was dead or “simply did not care whether or not he was alive.
“It was not until approximately some seven and one-half to eight minutes or so after the hail of gunfire, that an officer at the scene, believed to be Parnell, finally checked Jeremy for a pulse and discovered that he was still alive, despite having been shot multiple times including in the head and neck,” it reads. “However, none of the officers at the scene, including Stafford, Greenhouse, Brouillette and Parnell initiated or rendered any form of first aid, nor did they undertake any other measures in an attempt to stop Jeremy’s bleeding or otherwise alleviate or mitigate Jeremy’s suffering, or made any attempts to save his life.
“Sadly, Jeremy was left to suffer — and die — while the officers casually searched for ‘gloves.'”
The lawsuit accuses Greenhouse and Stafford of exacerbating the family’s pain by refusing to cooperate in the investigation. It says that the two met with Alexandria City Marshal Terence Grines, who had employed both of them, at some point just days after the shooting. But Greenhouse and Stafford “have yet to publicly reveal the substance of those discussions, why they met with Mr. Grines, or why they would meet with Mr. Grines but not give a statement to the Louisiana State Police investigators regarding the shooting.”
That suggests “a guilty state of mind,” according to the lawsuit.
Grines was not named in the civil lawsuit.
The lawsuit also points out a history of excessive force complaints filed against both Greenhouse and Stafford, saying Voinche bears responsibility because he did not properly vet the two before hiring them in December 2014. It reads that a public records request filed by the family’s attorneys with Voinche for his office’s policies and procedures on hiring, training and discipline for deputy marshals was fulfilled with one sentence: “No such records are known.”
“The need for such policies is so obvious for the safety of the public and the protection of constitutional rights that the lack of such policies constitutes deliberate indifference and a reckless disregard for the public and plaintiffs’ constitutional rights,” reads the lawsuit.
Voinche, the city court, town of Marksville and the parish failed to adopt a policy on the use of deadly force, it states, and those failures “were a direct and proximate cause of and the moving force behind the shooting of Christopher and Jeremy.”
The judge presiding over the criminal case, 12th Judicial District Court Judge William Bennett, recently ruled that the history of excessive force complaints against Stafford can be used by the prosecution. Stafford’s attorneys, Jonathan Goins and Christopher LaCour, have appealed that decision to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal.
The 96-page civil lawsuit recounts some of the same cases used when Bennett made his decision. It also claims that Voinche and Marksville Police Chief Elster Smith “tolerated and ratified” the use of excessive force by both Greenhouse and Stafford, in addition to failing to implement and enforce policies against it.
The lawsuit requests a jury trial.