Warning: This story contains graphic video.
A Louisiana judge on Wednesday allowed the public release of footage showing the police shooting that claimed the life of a 6-year-old boy with autism and critically injured his father. Prosecutors in the murder case against the two accused officers entered the video as evidence in court earlier in the day, and it was subsequently unsealed to journalists.
The nearly 14 minutes of graphic body camera video, from Nov. 3, 2015, begins seconds before Marksville deputy marshals Derrick Stafford, 32, and Norris Greenhouse Jr., 23, open fire into a vehicle driven by Christopher Few following a pursuit. Ultimately, five shots hit Few’s son, Jeremy Mardis, killing him. Two struck Few, critically wounding him.
Later, the recording shows Marksville Police Sgt. Kenneth Parnell III, the officer wearing the body camera, reaching into the back seat of the car to check Jeremy for a pulse, according to the Associated Press. A few minutes later, a paramedic reportedly tells Parnell the boy has died. Video from the body cameras worn by other officers has not been released.
Parnell and a fourth responding officer didn’t discharge their weapons in the incident. Last year, Parnell told investigators that he chose not to because “he didn’t fear for his life.”
Jeremy Mardis, seen in a Facebook photo uploaded by his father.
Stafford and Greenhouse were arrested and jailed shortly after the shooting. At a news conference explaining that development, the superintendent of Louisiana State Police called the footage of the shooting “the most disturbing thing” he’d seen.
In December, an Avoyelles Parish grand jury officially indicted Stafford and Greenhouse on one count each of second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder. They have since been released on bond.
The deputies say they were unaware Jeremy was in the vehicle, and the footage shows Stafford telling another officer minutes after the shooting that he “never saw a kid.”
Prosecutors argue the video proves Stafford and Greenhouse were at a safe distance and not in danger when they began shooting, firing a total of 18 shots.
District Court Judge William Bennett appeared to agree Wednesday as he released the video, saying the footage shows Few did not constitute a threat to the officers.
But defense attorneys for the deputies claim they acted in self defense and feared for their lives when Few began to reverse his car toward them. Although the video does show the white SUV backing up, when the final shots are heard, it is stationary and Few’s hands appear to be raised.
Because the video contains no audio for the first 27 seconds, however, the defense for Stafford and Greenhouse has claimed it’s impossible to know what Few was doing when they initially made the decision to use lethal force.
Jeremy was the youngest person killed by police in the U.S. in 2015, according to unofficial data collected by The Guardian.
Stafford’s trial is set to begin officially on Nov. 28. Greenhouse’s is scheduled to start March 13, 2017.
The first part of the body camera footage: