MARKSVILLE — For just over an hour in an upstairs Avoyelles Parish courtroom Tuesday, Christopher Few recounted the shockingly brief few minutes that shook his life: The burst of blue lights from a Marksville deputy marshal's patrol car behind him as he made a turn with his 6-year-old son buckled next to him, his decision not to pull over and the blinding hail of gunfire in which it ended.
Few, whose son, Jeremy Mardis, died in the gunfire, sat in the witness box just a few feet from former Lt. Derrick Stafford, now on trial for second-degree murder in the boy's death and attempted second-degree murder in Few's wounding, and laid out as best he could remember the details of that night.
Few said he never tried to run down any officers during the chase, and wasn't trying to evade or escape from the law when he refused to pull over the Kia Sportage he was driving.
"I had no delusion of … getting away from the police," Few said.
He said he refused to pull over because he was concerned what might happen to Jeremy, who was autistic, if he was arrested. Few said he'd had a couple of drinks earlier in the night with his then-girlfriend, Megan Dixon, and didn't know if he was legally drunk. He spotted her in a van ahead and tried to flag her down so she could take the boy to Few's mother's home.
The chase unfolded over two miles, lasted less than five minutes and started for reasons even those involved can't yet explain.
At the end, Few said, he made a dead-end turn. He never heard commands from the officers until after they'd fired a volley of rounds — at least 18 — into the vehicle, critically wounding him and killing his son.
"I immediately had my hands in the air but they kept firing," Few said.
He recalled feeling hot blood pouring from his head, his hands being handcuffed behind his back as he lay wounded on the ground, then being airlifted to Rapides Medical Center. But he said he learned Jeremy had been shot and killed only after coming out of sedation nearly a week later, the same day as his son's funeral.
Wearing a royal blue dress shirt tucked neatly into a pair of jeans, Few, 26, opened his collar to show a scarred-over bullet wound to his chest, surrounded by a tattoo. Asked by a prosecutor why he'd gotten it, Few sat silent for a few moments.
"For a lot of reasons," he said.
Few's account of that night — his first public comments about the shooting — highlighted a tense and emotional day of testimony in the murder trial. Just a few feet away from the witness box sat Stafford, dressed in a dark suit and sitting quietly between his two defense attorneys.
Stafford's partner in a Marksville Marshal's Office Crown Victoria that night, Jason Brouillette, took the stand earlier Tuesday to offer his own recollections in hushed, halting testimony to the Avoyelles Parish jury.
Brouillette told a prosecutor he never fired his weapon or felt personally under threat during the chase and ensuing brief standoff, which began around 9:24 p.m.
Brouillette, who joined the chase in a car with Stafford after Norris Greenhouse Jr. — who's also awaiting trial — radioed for backup, said he remained unsure what prompted Greenhouse to try to pull Few over in the first place. Brouillette testified that Few drove erratically and may have posed a danger to others on the roads.
Brouillette said he stood by a written statement he provided to State Police detectives days after the shooting in which he said Christopher Few, Jeremy's father, was using his small Kia SUV "as a weapon."
Brouillette, whose testimony Stafford's defense attorney said during opening statements would form a crux of the case, said he was moonlighting along with Stafford and Greenhouse for the local marshal's office on Nov. 3 when Greenhouse began chasing Few.
Surveillance footage from the courthouse and a town fire station, shown later in the day, showed Few's Kia leading Greenhouse on a chase through town, though he doesn't appear to have been travelling at breakneck speed. In footage from the courthouse, Few actually comes to a complete stop at an intersection — as Greenhouse, lights flashing, pulls up behind — before making a turn and carrying on the pursuit.
Meanwhile, a witness who lives near the shooting scene and who said she ran through a field to get a good look at the commotion that night told jurors Tuesday morning she had a clear view of the scene as the officers fired at Few's vehicle.
Bonita Alexander said she could see that Few's hands were raised and extended out the window before she heard the rapid crack of gunfire.
A body camera worn by Kenneth Parnell, a Marksville policeman who also arrived at the scene, captures the shooting and shows Few raising his hands out the window. But the first 30 seconds of video lack sound, meaning only about four gunshots can be heard on the recording and making it impossible to tell whether Few raised his hands before or during the shooting.
Brouillette, who also worked full time as a Marskville police officer at the time, testified he was standing directly to the right of Stafford when his two fellow officers fired their handguns at Few's vehicle, with Greenhouse firing from somewhere to Brouillette's right.
Asked by prosecutors whether Stafford appeared in any imminent danger when he started firing, Brouillette said he couldn't answer for the others.
"All I can answer for is me," Brouillette said. "I wasn't in direct threat then, no."
But on cross-examination, Brouillette also told a defense attorney for Stafford that he stands behind a line in his written statement in which he wrote the only reason he didn't open fire himself was because he didn't know whether Parnell might be in his line of fire.
Brouillette acknowledged being nervous in the days after the shooting that he might be arrested as part of the State Police investigation, concerns that were heightened when detectives took his gun away two days afterward.
He testified he spoke several times to Stafford in the days after the shooting and was questioned by prosecutors about having lunch at an Outback Steakhouse in Alexandria with Stafford, Greenhouse and Alexandria City Marshal Terrance Grines — who employed both Greenhouse and Stafford as deputies — hours before turning in his statement and being questioned by State Police.
Both Brouillette and Grines, who also testified Tuesday morning, said they couldn't recall any details of what was discussed at the lunch meeting.
A pair of paramedics who arrived at the grim scene later that night, Blake Desselle and Kane Mayeaux, also provided graphic testimony about the extensive injuries suffered by both Few and his young son.
As they arrived, both paramedics said, they saw Few covered in blood and with his hands handcuffed behind his back near his vehicle.
Only after checking Few's vital signs — and noting gunshot wounds to his head and chest — did they notice young Jeremy Mardis still in the vehicle.
The paramedics said they searched for a pulse but found no signs of life on the boy, who had a bullet hole in his forehead and several other wounds on his body.