Murder trial: Officer testifies about autistic boy’s death

MARKSVILLE, La. (AP) – A Louisiana law enforcement officer testified Friday at his murder trial that he was trying to save a fellow officer when he opened fire on a car, killing a 6-year-old autistic boy and critically wounding his father.

The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/2oe880h ) that Derrick Stafford cried when a prosecutor showed him photographs of the slain child, Jeremy Mardis.

Stafford said he didn’t know the boy was in the car when he fired and didn’t see his father’s hands in the air after a 2-mile (3-kilometer) car chase in Marksville in November 2015.

“Never in a million years would I have fired my weapon if I knew a child was in that car. I would have called off the pursuit myself,” Stafford said.

But he said he shot at the car because he feared the boy’s father, Christopher Few, was going to back up and hit another deputy city marshal with his vehicle. That other deputy, Norris Greenhouse Jr., also fired shots at the car.

“I felt I had no choice but to save Norris. That is the only reason I fired my weapon,” Stafford said.

Two other officers at the scene – a third deputy city marshal and a Marksville police officer – didn’t fire their weapons that night. Prosecutors say the officers weren’t in any danger and shot at the car from a safe distance.

Video from the police officer’s body camera shows the boy’s father had his hand raised in the vehicle as the two officers collectively fired 18 shots, 14 coming from Stafford’s semi-automatic pistol. At least four bullets hit Mardis, who died within minutes.

Stafford and Greenhouse are charged with second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder. Greenhouse awaits a separate trial later this year.

Stafford’s trial began Monday. Prosecutors finished presenting their case on Wednesday. Jurors could hear attorneys’ closing arguments later Friday before they begin deliberating.

The Town Talk reports (http://townta.lk/2nN3LwO ) that prosecutor John Sinquefield asked Stafford if he had watched the body camera video.

“I lived it,” he said. “I didn’t have to watch it.”

Stafford said Greenhouse stumbled and fell to the ground as he tried to back away from Few’s car.

“I believe Mr. Few was using his vehicle as a dangerous weapon. I believe Mr. Few was going to hurt or kill one of us,” Stafford said.

During cross examination, Sinquefield handed Stafford a stack of photos of Mardis.

“Do those photos show you what a .40 caliber Glock will do to a 6-year-old boy?” the prosecutor asked.

“Yes,” Stafford softly answered after pausing and crying. The 33-year-old officer said the pictures made him think of his own children.

Stafford and Greenhouse are black. Few is white, and so was his son.

Defense attorneys have accused investigators of rushing to judgment, arresting the officers less than a week after the shooting. One of Stafford’s attorneys has questioned whether investigators would have acted more deliberately if the officers had been white.

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