MARKSVILLE, La. (AP) — Christopher Few remembers hearing the gunshots that tore into his flesh and killed his 6-year-old autistic son. The barrage of bullets didn’t stop when he stuck his hands out the window of his car in a sign of surrender.
But the 26-year-old father of Jeremy Mardis testified Tuesday that he never heard any warnings before two Louisiana law enforcement officers fired 18 bullets at his car at the tail end of a 2-mile chase.
“The only thing I heard was gunshots. Then I heard verbal commands after they were through firing,” Few said during the second day of trial for Derrick Stafford, one of two officers charged with murder over the November 2015 shooting.
Few, whose testimony marked his first public statements about the deadly encounter, said he learned of his son’s death when he regained consciousness at a hospital. That was the day of Jeremy’s funeral, six days after the shooting in Marksville.
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A prosecutor, Matthew Derbes, asked Few if he regrets not stopping his car when he saw the blue lights from an officer’s vehicle.
“Most definitely,” Few said. “Every day.”
But he insisted that he was driving safely and wasn’t trying to escape from the three deputy city marshals and the Marksville police officer who chased him. Few said he kept driving in hopes of catching up with a girlfriend in a van ahead of him, so that she could take care of his son if he got arrested.
“The whole reason there was even a chase was for his well-being,” he said.
He said his son remained calm throughout the pursuit.
“He always liked going on rides,” Few said.
Few also said he didn’t recall telling investigators that he thought he had put his car in reverse just before the shooting.
A prosecutor told jurors Monday that Stafford and another deputy city marshal weren’t in any danger when they fired their semi-automatic pistols at Few’s car.
Stafford’s attorneys, however, are trying to pin the blame for the deadly confrontation on Few. They say Jeremy’s father led officers on a dangerous, high-speed chase and rammed into a deputy’s vehicle before the shooting.
During opening statements, defense attorney Jonathan Goins called Few “the author of that child’s fate.”
“Innocent people do not run from the police. Innocent people stop their vehicles, surrender to the police,” Goins said.
Goins said Few had drugs and alcohol in his system at the time of the shooting. Few acknowledged drinking at a bar with his then-girlfriend shortly before the shooting but said he hadn’t taken any drugs that day.
Stafford and Norris Greenhouse Jr. are charged with second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder. Greenhouse awaits a separate trial later this year.
Earlier Tuesday, another officer at the shooting scene testified that he believed Few was driving dangerously before the shooting. Jason Brouillette, a former Marksville police officer, acknowledged telling investigators he believed Few was using the car “as a weapon.”
But Brouillette, who wasn’t charged in the shooting, said he didn’t fire his weapon as he stood next to Stafford because he wasn’t “in direct threat at that time.”
Stafford, Greenhouse and Brouillette were moonlighting as deputy city marshals on the night of the shooting.
Both officers are black. Few is white, as was his son.
Video from a Marksville police officer’s body camera shows Few had his hands raised inside his vehicle while the officers fired. At least four of their 18 shots struck the child’s body while he was strapped into the front seat.
“I stuck my hands out the window. They kept firing,” Few said.
Few kept his composure during his testimony and even smiled when the prosecutor showed him a photograph of him with Jeremy celebrating the boy’s first Christmas.
The scars on his body are a permanent reminder of the bloodshed. So is the tattoo of a crosshairs around the scar on his chest.
Few paused when Derbes asked him why he got that tattoo.
“For many reasons,” he said. “Personal reasons.”