A Louisiana law enforcement officer has been found guilty of manslaughter in the fatal 2015 shooting of a 6-year-old autistic boy, multiple outlets report.
The 33-year-old former Marksville police officer and part-time city marshal had been charged with counts of second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder in the shooting.
He and another officer, Norris Greenhouse Jr., had opened 18 rounds of fire on the car of the boy’s father, Christopher Few, after police had followed the 26-year-old through town for two-miles.
The shooting, which took place just after 9 p.m. on Nov. 3, 2015, left Few seriously injured with bullet fragments in his brain and lung while his son — Jeremy Mardis — was killed on the scene while sitting buckled in the front seat.
Mardis had autism and “loved everything, everybody,” relatives have said.
During the trial, Few said he heard no warnings from law enforcement before the officers fired, NBC News reported.
Stafford, meanwhile, testified on the stand that he did not see the father’s hands in the air and did not know the boy was in the car, NBC News reported.
“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, according to NBC News.
He added he shot at the car fearing Few was going to back up his Kia Sportage and hit Greenhouse Jr. “I felt I had no choice but to save Norris,” Stafford said, NBC News reported. “That is the only reason I fired my weapon.”
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Body camera video showing that Few had his hands in the air before marshals opened fire was made public in September 2016. Prosecutors argued it showed that the officers were not in any danger, NBC News reported.
“This was not a threatening situation for the police,” Mark Jeansonne, Few’s attorney previously told the Associated Press.
Two other officers were on the scene at the time of the shooting — though they didn’t fire their weapons.
Stafford was also found guilty of attempted manslaughter in the wounding of Few, KALB reported. Greenhouse Jr, 25, will face a separate trial later this year for the same counts beginning in June.
Both Stafford and Greenhouse plead not guilty to their charges, according to the Associated Press.
After hearing the verdict, Stafford hugged and kissed his sobbing wife — telling her “it’ll be alright,” KALB reported. He was given 20 minutes to bid goodbye to his family before he was cuffed and lead out of the courtroom.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said in a statement that he was pleased with the verdict.
“As we have said all along, our goal in this case was to get justice for Jeremy Mardis, his family, and the people of Louisiana,” he wrote. “Today, that happened.”