Two Black police officers were charged with the second degree murder of six year old Jeremy Mardis, and attempted murder of his father, Christopher Few. The six year old died of multiple gunshot wounds. The father is in critical condition.
Details of the case are still emerging and it has been announced that there may be more arrests. Four police officers were involved in this incident. The officers who haven’t yet been charged are white. While there is little doubt that this is a case of police brutality, all four officers involved deserve to have their actions scrutinized and they all should also be brought up on charges. That said, it is impossible not to take note of the lightning speed with which this Louisiana jurisdiction jettisoned these two officers, Derrick Stafford, 32, of Mansura, and Norris Greenhouse Jr., 23. Greenhouse is the son of a local assistant district attorney who has recused his office from this case. There are pending civil rights lawsuits against these officers.
It is also noteworthy that both were charged with murder, which given the long spate of police brutality cases that have not only gone without any referrals to grand juries for indictments, but when they did, seldom have returned anything more severe than manslaughter.
Occasionally, prosecutors will go the extra mile and charge rogue officers with murder, as was done in the case of Lisa Mearkle in Pennsylvania. ThinkProgress reports that Mearkle was acquitted by a jury:
The fatal traffic stop happened back in February. When Hummelstown Borough Police Department officer tried to pull over Kassick, the man escaped to his sister’s home nearby. A brief foot chase ensued, and the video begins with the officer yelling for Kassick to get on the ground. Mearkle fires her taser — 50,000 volts — into his back, and he writhes in pain in submission. Complying with Mearkle’s commands, Kassick makes his hands visible. As he lays face down on the ground, Mearkle shoots him with her gun, twice.
This Pennsylvania case bears some similarities to the Louisiana case in that both incidents began with traffic stops in which the targets tried to flee. Both cases involved white victims of police brutality. In both cases, the targets of arrest were in a submissive position.
“At the time Officer Mearkle fires both rounds from her pistol, the video clearly depicts Kassick lying on the snow covered lawn with his face toward the ground, furthermore, at the time the rounds are fired nothing can be seen in either of Kassick’s hands, nor does he point or direct anything toward Officer Mearkle,” District Attorney Ed Marisco wrote in an affidavit.
Mearkle has maintained that she was acting in self-defense. Kassick was unarmed, but during her trial, Mearkle explained that she believed Kassick was holding a weapon. “There was no reason for him to reach into his frigging jacket,” she said.
She also criticized prosecutors for charging her with murder.
Raw Story and other outlets report that Jeremy Mardis’ father had his hands up at the time he was shot. A major difference in this case is that there not only was an innocent bystander involved, but that bystander was a child who was strapped in his seat.
There is no question, when one peels back all the layers of complexity in these brutality cases, one is left with the same underlying fundamental problem: a pervasive lack of awareness of even the most basic foundations of ethics, not only in the officers involved, but going all the way up the chain of command, up to and including regulations and laws governing aspects of law enforcement. In parallel, we have the political influence exerted by fraternal orders of police around the country on the way police department procedures are formulated and managed. The Los Angeles Times reports that the US Supreme Court tossed out a Texas case that will make it harder to sue police forces in police chase cases:
By an 8-1 vote, the justices tossed out an excessive force suit against a Texas police officer who ignored his supervisor’s warning and took a high-powered rifle to a highway overpass to shoot at an approaching car. The officer said he hoped to stop the car but instead shot and killed the driver.
The ruling bolsters previous decisions that give police the benefit of the doubt when they encounter a potentially dangerous situation. The court noted in an unsigned 12-page opinion that it has “never found the use of deadly force in connection with a dangerous car chase to violate the 4th Amendment.”
The Mardis case started with a chase.
I am appalled by the seemingly wanton execution of a child as a collateral to the near-execution of his father. I am angry, as a citizen, watching case after case of brutality being swept under a carpet of morally-compromised legalistic escape hatches. Before this ruling by SCOTUS, there was Lisa Mearkle. She was found innocent by a jury. Before that, there were 13 Pennsylvania officers who pumped a total of 137 bullets into an innocent couple whose car was backfiring in Cleveland, Ohio. They were acquitted. There have been dozens of cases in the last few years.
When you add in the growing trend of municipalities and state legislatures awarding police their own Bill of Rights, you can see that we have the explanation for the impunity we’ve seen in cases of the very worst of behaviors by police officers.
Which brings me to FBI Director Comey’s speech in which he blamed the rise of the murder rates in some cities to a “Ferguson Effect.” Cases like the Jeremy Mardis case get solved thanks to video footage, whether it is taken by citizens or recorded on the body cams that are now required in many police departments. In San Diego, there have been cases of police shootings that would have been documented, were it not for those body cams being mysteriously turned off. So, as I wrote in my essay on Comey, the problem with policing is in the ethics applied throughout law enforcement, and it starts at the top and filters down to the smallest of parishes.
But that’s for white officers. There were a total of four officers involved in the Mardis murder. Only two have been charged with murder and we know that two have refused to talk. We don’t know which two.
The two other officers, Lt. Jason Brouillette and Sgt. Kenneth Parnell, both of whom are Caucasian, have been placed on administrative leave and have yet to be charged, much less arraigned on any charges. They were there. They are on the same videos that convinced the prosecution to press charges. What if any part did they play in cooling things down, or supporting the efforts of Greenhouse and Stafford as events unfolded? Why did the prosecutor not hand them over to a judge and jury to decide their guilt or innocence in this case?
Justice is justice. There can only be one kind, and it must apply to all equally. What role will the color of their skin play in finding their guilt or innocence? Is murder as appropriate a charge in this case as it was in the Mearkle case where, clearly, the suspect was immobilized and unable to cause the officer any harm? Will there be parity and fairness in setting the harshness of punishment in the case of guilt? Can Officers Greenhouse and Stafford receive fair treatment in a small Louisiana parish by a jury of their peers?
Will they be tried separately, if the other two are also charged? Could Brouillette and Parnell escape indictment thanks to this new Supreme Court decision, while Greenhouse and Stafford are found guilty?
While it is only just that officers involved in such horrific brutality should be tried, that justice must be as equal in guilt as it should be in innocence. In today’s toxic racial environment, especially in a state with Louisiana’s history of racism, we must be doubly vigilant that two out of four officers involved in a horrific crime aren’t scapegoated. All four were involved. All four should be treated the same.
In an update, the FreeThought projects informs us of a motive in this case, which now really begs the question, what role, if any, did the officers who haven’t been charged play in this? What about Officer Stafford’s role? If the other two officers were uninvolved in what turns out to be a personal matter, why would Stafford be accused with Greenhouse and at the same level of culpability? Read:
Officers Derrick Stafford and Norris Greenhouse, Jr. are currently being held, each with a $1 million bail for the murder of Jeremy Mardis and the attempted murder of his father, Chris Few.
Few’s attorney, Mark Jeansonne said Monday, that the body camera video shows the father of this 6-year-old autistic boy who was shot to death in his car, had his hands in the air and did not pose a threat.
After it was revealed that the officers had fabricated a story about Chris Few having an outstanding warrant and being armed, the family is left wondering why in the world he was stopped in the first place.
Until now, there was still no logical reason for the stop, leaving everyone wondering why these officers went after Few at all. However, all that changed when Few’s fiancée came forward about her relationship to one of the murdering cops, Norris Greenhouse, Jr.
According to the Advocate, Megan Dixon, Few’s fiancée, said this weekend that Few had a previous run-in with Greenhouse. A former high school classmate of Dixon, Greenhouse had started messaging her on Facebook and had come by the house Few and Dixon were sharing at the time.
Now that we know Few told Greenhouse to leave his fiancée alone, we can establish an alleged motive for the stop. Could it be that Greenhouse and the three other officers involved in the stop were abusing their authority to harass a man for being protective of his fiancée?
Two officers face murder counts in Marksville shooting; Body cam footage called ‘disturbing’ | News | The Advocate — Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Deputies fired at least 18 rounds at father, son
November 6, 2015
“Key details of the deadly episode remained a mystery even to the investigators early Friday, as two of the four agents in the event refused to speak to authorities 72 hours after the killing, prompting a rare public expression of misgivings toward officers by a law enforcement counterpart.
“It’s more concerning the longer it takes (for them) to talk to us,” said Edmonson earlier Friday. “All we want to know is what happened.”
Had his own troopers been involved in a similar altercation, he said, “we would have already interviewed them.”
Edmonson declined to say whether Stafford and Greenhouse were to the who were silent.”
“No use-of-force policy exists for the Marksville Police Department, said Smith, nor are there guidelines on shooting at vehicles, a practice frowned upon by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, an umbrella agency for law enforcement groups.”