MARKSVILLE, La. (AP) — A grandmother wept to hear a judge read the indictments of two deputy city marshals on second-degree murder charges for the fatal shooting of her 6-year-old autistic grandson in a small Louisiana town.
Hours before an Avoyelles Parish grand jury handed up the indictments Thursday, Cathy Mardis called for authorities to release video from a police body camera of the encounter that killed her grandson, Jeremy Mardis, and severely wounded his father, Chris Few.
After the judge who read the indictments lifted a gag order in the case, Louisiana Attorney General James "Buddy" Caldwell's office released a court filing that provides investigators' first description of the video's contents.
A police officer who witnessed the two city marshals, Derrick Stafford and Norris Greenhouse Jr., open fire on Few and his son told investigators he didn't fire his own weapon because "he didn't fear for his life," according to the filing.
The document also said Marksville Police Sgt. Kenneth Parnell III's body camera shows that Christopher Few's empty hands are raised and visible inside the vehicle "when gunfire becomes audible." Few was critically wounded by two gunshots, while his son, Jeremy Mardis, received five gunshot wounds and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police say Stafford, a full-time police lieutenant, and Greenhouse, a former police officer, were moonlighting as deputy city marshals in Marksville on the night of Nov. 3 when they fired at least 18 rounds at Few's car. The court filing released Thursday doesn't explain why Greenhouse began pursuing the vehicle before Stafford and another deputy marshal joined in the pursuit of the fleeing vehicle.
Stafford and Greenhouse were arrested on second-degree murder charges last month but not formally charged until Thursday. The indictment charged Stafford, 32, of Mansura, and Greenhouse, 23, of Marksville, with one count each of second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder.
"The body camera video is approximately 13 minutes and 47 seconds long. At approximately 26 seconds into the video, the driver, Christopher Few's empty hands are raised and visible when gunfire becomes audible," the document states.
Caldwell vowed Thursday to "continue (a) detailed and thorough investigation as we prepare for trial."
Few shook hands with one of his attorneys after state District Judge William Bennett read the indictment aloud in court. Few's mother consoled Cathy Mardis, the boy's other grandmother, during the brief court proceedings.
"We don't get Jeremy back, but we got what we wanted today," Cathy Mardis said.
Earlier, she spoke to the news media outside the courthouse, describing the pain the shooting had inflicted on the family.
"It's been pure hell. I can't explain what it's like to bury your 6-year-old grandchild," said Mardis, 46, of Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
Although Bennett lifted a gag order on people involved in the case, prosecutors declined to disclose any additional details about the incident. Defense attorneys said prosecutors haven't turned over any evidence for them to review yet.
George Higgins III, an attorney for Greenhouse, said, "We've yet to see any evidence for ourselves. I just know there's a lot more to this story than what has been talked about."
Jonathan Goins, a lawyer for Stafford, declined to describe his client's account of the incident, but said evidence will show he "acted in a very lawful way."
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. But he gave no indication of what's on the video.
Last month, an attorney for Few told The Associated Press that video from another officer's body camera showed Few had his hands up inside the vehicle and didn't pose a threat when the officers opened fire. The judge hearing the case then swiftly imposed a gag order, keeping those involved from speaking to the news media.
Cathy Mardis said she has not seen the tape and can only imagine what is on there but added: "I thank God the tape is there."
"I want justice for Jeremy. I want justice for Chris," she said. She said the family had an open casket funeral for her grandson even though there were signs of trauma on his body.
She quoted the funeral director as saying, "Don't touch his head. It might fall back apart."
The grandmother wore a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles T-shirt, in honor of her grandson, who loved the characters. Standing by her side outside the courthouse was Samantha Few, the mother of Chris Few.
Cathy Mardis spoke lovingly of her grandson. He was autistic and non-verbal but very bright, she said.
"He was the most loving child you could have met. He was always smiling and happy. He taught himself to read at 3 years old just from watching YouTube," she said. Jeremy Mardis has a younger sister who still cannot understand what happened, the grandmother said.
"She's still asking to see her brother every day," she said.