MARKSVILLE, LA (Reuters) - A Louisiana jury convicted a deputy marshal of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter on Friday in the killing of a 6-year-old boy during a volley of gunfire after chasing his father’s car in 2015.
Derrick Stafford, 33, was found guilty by 10-2 jury vote in a Marksville, Louisiana, courtroom, more than a year after he and another deputy opened fire on Chris Few’s Kia SUV after a two-mile pursuit. Few’s son, Jeremy Mardis, 6, who was inside the vehicle, was shot and killed and Few was wounded.
Prosecutors argued that Stafford stood a safe distance from Few’s vehicle and opened fire out of anger during the Nov. 3, 2015 incident.
Stafford “had enough and made a decision to kill a man,” prosecutor John Sinquefield told jurors during closing arguments, “and in the process he killed a 6-year-old autistic boy.”
Stafford is scheduled for sentencing next Friday when he faces up 60 years in prison
The second deputy, Norris Greenhouse Jr., also faces charges of second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder in the shooting and is scheduled to go on trial in June.
The two deputies fired at least 18 times at Few’s car. Jeremy, who was hit at least four times, died still wearing his seatbelt in the front passenger seat. Three bullets recovered from his body matched Stafford’s .40-caliber Glock pistol, state police have said.
Stafford’s attorney Jonathan Goins said he plans to appeal.
“One day, Mr. Stafford will see daylight again. We are happy about that,” Goins said after the verdict as Stafford’s cried nearby.
Stafford told jurors from the witness stand on Friday that he never saw the young child in the car and fired only in self-defense after Few, who’d turned into a dead-end, put his car in reverse.
“I felt I had no choice. That’s the only reason I fired my weapon,” said Stafford, who cried on the stand while viewing photos of the boy’s body. “I had no idea a child was in the vehicle.”
The jury viewed footage of the shooting and its grisly aftermath several times during the trial. The footage was captured on the body camera of a third officer who arrived at the scene. That officer testified that he never perceived a threat.
Reporting by Brendan O'Brien; Editing by Robert Birsel