MARKSVILLE — The events that ended in a barrage of gunfire that killed Christopher Few’s 6-year-old son and left Few hospitalized in critical condition late Tuesday started with a brief incident at a red light that caught the attention of Marksville marshals.
Few’s fiancée, Megan Dixon, said Saturday the encounter happened shortly after she and Few left in separate vehicles following an argument while playing pool at a nearby bar.
Dixon said Few was stopped ahead of her at an intersection and got out and approached her. Dixon and a friend with her drove past Few’s small SUV and made a right turn at the light — an encounter that drew the attention of officers nearby.
Seconds later, as Few raced past them with deputy Ward 2 marshals in pursuit, Dixon said, she could see Few’s son, Jeremy David Mardis, through the side window. The chase ended less than 2 miles away at the gates of the now-closed Marksville State Historic Site, where deputy marshals blocked Few in a corner.
The two deputy marshals — Lt. Derrick Stafford, 32, of Mansura, and Norris Greenhouse Jr., 23, of Marksville — are being held at the Avoyelles Parish Jail on counts of second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder. The two men are accused of firing at least 18 rounds into the driver’s side of Few’s vehicle after penning it in at the end of the chase.
Two other law enforcement officers at the scene — Sgt. Kenneth Parnell, an on-duty Marksville police officer, and Lt. Jason Brouillette, a third deputy city marshal — are not believed to have fired their weapons, said Col. Mike Edmonson, State Police superintendent. Ballistics tests on all four officers’ service weapons are scheduled for later this week, Edmonson said.
There’s no evidence that Few had a weapon in the car, Edmonson said, and both Dixon and Rhett Lacour, a friend of Few’s, said he didn’t own a gun. Edmonson said Friday he couldn’t confirm reports that Few tried to back his vehicle into the officers’ car.
Stafford, a shift supervisor for the Marksville Police Department and an eight-year veteran of that department who was moonlighting as a deputy marshal at the time of the shooting, was indicted by a Rapides Parish grand jury in October 2011 on two counts of aggravated rape. Those charges were dropped in 2012, but Rapides Parish District Attorney Phillip Terrell — who was not in office at the time — said Friday he wasn’t sure why.
Stafford is also named in five pending civil lawsuits in Avoyelles Parish, KATC-TV reported.
Greenhouse, a reserve Marksville officer and a deputy marshal with the Alexandria City Marshal’s Office, is named in two of the civil suits in Avoyelles Parish.
Stafford and Greenhouse, along with Marksville Police Chief Elster Smith Jr., are among the targets of a federal use-of-force lawsuit filed in July by Ascension Parish resident Ian Fridge, who said he was tackled by officers, who also used a stun gun on him, in Marksville last year at an Independence Day festival, The Advocate reported Friday.
Earlier this week, Smith said Greenhouse had been employed full time as a Marksville police officer but had left the job on good terms.
Just moments before Stafford and Greenhouse allegedly opened fire on Few’s vehicle, Parnell, who was wearing a body camera, arrived at the corner of Martin Luther King Drive and Taensas Street, where the deputy marshals had penned in Few’s vehicle near the gates of the closed Marksville State Historic Site, Edmonson said Saturday.
Edmonson declined to say exactly what Parnell captured on his camera, but at a news conference late Friday, he called the footage “one of the most disturbing scenes I have seen.”
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That footage “played a large role” in the State Police’s decision to arrest Stafford and Greenhouse on murder counts, Edmonson said Saturday, adding that recordings of 911 calls, interviews with two of four officers involved in the shooting and forensic evidence also played a role in the decision by State Police to arrest Stafford and Greenhouse three days after the shooting.
“It’s a bad blow to this city and to the Police Department,” Smith said of the allegations against Stafford and Greenhouse. All four officers have been placed on administrative leave by the Marksville Police Department, Smith said.
Smith said he was “very satisfied? with State Police’s investigation and stood behind the state agency’s inquiry into the shooting.
Bail for Greenhouse and Stafford has not yet been set. An initial hearing for the two is scheduled for Monday morning, officials with the Avoyelles Parish Sheriff’s Office said.
Ralph Capitelli, a New Orleans attorney who practices criminal law, said based on the counts on which the officers were booked into jail — second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder — it’s “saying that both these officers intended to kill both the father and the son.”
For an arrest of the officers to be made that quickly “really depends on if there’s unquestioned, uncontroverted evidence indicating wrongful discharge of the weapon and use of force. Most cases drag out a lot longer, though,” he said.
Dane S. Ciolino, law professor at Loyola University in New Orleans, said he’s not surprised the arrests were made quickly.
“In the age of body cameras being available now, investigators can see what happened within minutes after the incident,” he said. “One thing that will be interesting to see is if this is a murder case or a negligent homicide case.”
A grand jury will have to make the decision whether to charge the officers as a murder case.
“It’s possible it could go up to first-degree murder or down to negligent homicide,” Ciolino said.
The deputy marshals claimed they were pursuing a warrant when they attempted to pull over Few, Edmonson said at Friday’s news conference, but District Attorney Charles Riddle III said he wasn’t aware of any warrants and Edmonson said Friday, “No warrant has materialized.”
The only files relating to Few at the Avoyelles Parish Clerk of Court’s Office or with the Marksville City Court were a couple of traffic citations and a DWI conviction from earlier this year, for which Few remains on probation.
The funeral for Jeremy, an autistic child who’d recently started the first grade at Lafargue Elementary School in nearby Effie, will be held Monday in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. The boy was shot multiple times in the head and torso and pronounced dead at the scene.
Few, meanwhile, remains in critical condition at Rapides Regional Medical Center in Alexandria. His 57-year-old stepfather, Morris German, told The Associated Press that Few was heavily sedated, unable to talk and had bullet fragments lodged in his brain and lung. He described Few as a loving father and added the man’s son “was his whole life.”
Few had moved to the Marksville area from Mississippi about two years ago for a job as an apprentice riverboat captain, Few’s friend Lacour said, a job he’d lost in the last few months. Jeremy and Few’s mother, Samantha Few, moved with him.
“Chris is a great guy,” Lacour said. Those who know Few have been struggling to comprehend what might have triggered the officers to fire into the car, Lacour said.
“If he was guilty of anything, it was that he fled,” Lacour said. “He’d been drinking and maybe he just reacted on fear.”
Earlier on Tuesday evening, Few had been hanging out with Dixon at TJ’s Lounge, a local bar less than a block from the intersection where the pursuit began. Dixon said they’d been playing pool when an argument broke out.
After she left with a friend, Few headed to Dixon’s aunt’s house to pick up Jeremy before both circled back and wound up stopped at the same red light at the intersection of Preston Street and Spring Bayou Road.
Few got out of his car and tried to tug open the door of the truck she was riding in, Dixon said, but the pair pulled away, driving around Few’s small SUV and making a right at the light.
“It wasn’t a big deal,” Dixon said. “It happened so fast. I didn’t get 10 or 15 yards down the road and I hear cops.”
Dixon described Jeremy as “an angel” and said that, although the boy didn’t speak much, he was extremely smart and affectionate.
The arrests of Stafford and Greenhouse Friday night were “some relief,” Dixon said, but can’t remedy the terrible turn of events or provide much solace to her grief.
“I still ain’t sleeping,” Dixon said.
Editor’s note: This story was changed Nov. 8, 2015, to correctly identify Lt. Derrick Stafford, 32, of Mansura, as the officer indicted on two counts of rape in 2011 in Rapides Parish.