A Louisiana law enforcement officer was convicted Friday of fatally shooting a 6-year-old boy with autism while chasing his father's car, prosecutors said.
Derrick Stafford, a deputy city marshal, was charged with manslaughter and attempted manslaughter for opening fire on Christopher Few's vehicle on the night of November 3, 2015.
Few was seriously wounded but survived, while his son, 6-year-old Jeremy Mardis, was killed after being struck with four bullets.
Through tears, Stafford told jurors in Marksville on Friday that he didn't know the boy was in the car.
"Never in a million years would I have fired my weapon if I knew a child was in that car," he said after he was shown pictures of the boy. "I would have called off the pursuit myself."
Avoyelles Parish investigators initially said the marshals were chasing Few because of an outstanding warrant. However, the clerk of court, the district attorney’s office, the Marksville Police Department and city court and did not find any in his name, according to an investigation by WAFB.
Stafford said that he opened fire because he feared Few would back up and hit his colleague, who had fallen in the road as they attempted to pull the driver over.
But bodycam footage released last September showed that Few raised his hands before the two deputies opened fire.
The footage appeared to show an officer at the scene check Jeremy for a pulse as his father was slumped over, bleeding on the ground.
"I never saw a kid in the car, man," Stafford was heard saying. "I never saw a kid, bro."
Few told the court that he didn't know his son had died until he woke up from a coma nearly a week later.
He said he tried to get away from deputies because he wanted to take his son to his girlfriend's house, where he would be safe. But he added that "every day" he regretted not pulling over.
The jury found Stafford guilty of manslaughter for Jeremy's death and found him guilty of attempted manslaughter in the wounding of Few. He will be sentenced on March 31.
A second deputy who fired, Norris Greenhouse Jr., will go on trial later this year after pleading not guilty to the same charges.
Two other officers at the scene did not fire their weapons.
On Friday, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said he was pleased with the verdict.
"As we have said all along, our goal in this case was to get justice for Jeremy Mardis, his family, and the people of Louisiana," he said in a statement. "Today, that happened."