'Y'all just don’t know what the hell we go through': News of past issues, run-ins with Marksville officers surfaces

Two law enforcement officers accused of murder in the shooting of a 6-year-old boy last week were hit with million-dollar bail amounts, while an attorney for the child’s father said body camera video reportedly shows the man’s raised hands as the officers began firing at his SUV.

State Police have said at least 18 bullets were fired, injuring Chris Few and killing his son Jeremy David Mardis. An attorney for Few said Few presented no threat to deputy local marshals who approached the car on the night of Nov. 3.

“This was not a threatening situation for the police,” said Mark Jeansonne, the attorney. He had not seen the video but said it was described during a closed-door hearing to discuss bail for Derrick Stafford, 32, and Norris Greenhouse Jr., 23.

The Avoyelles Parish judge presiding over the case, William J. Bennett, issued a gag order shortly after Jeansonne made the comments, barring anyone associated with the case — including victims, potential witnesses and attorneys — from speaking with the media “directly or indirectly or through any third parties.”

Jeremy, an autistic first-grader at Lafargue Elementary School in the nearby Avoyelles Parish town of Effie, was quietly buried Monday in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, in a small, private ceremony.

The boy’s final resting place is a graveyard near the De Soto National Forest. Funeral home staff said the family was still distraught over Jeremy’s death and would not speak to reporters Monday.

Few, who was shot multiple times, remains hospitalized in fair condition at Rapides Regional Medical Center in Alexandria and was unable to attend the funeral. Jeansonne, his attorney, said Few has not yet been told that his son was killed.

Hours earlier, Bennett, who sits on the 12th Judicial District Court bench, set bail for Stafford and Greenhouse at $1 million each. Avoyelles Parish Sheriff Doug Anderson, who announced the bail decision after the hearing, said the two officers had been held in seclusion away from other inmates at the Avoyelles Parish Jail. They have since been transferred to the Rapides Parish Detention Center. Neither had posted bail as of Monday evening.

State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson said that Stafford and Greenhouse had initially told State Police investigators in brief statements that they were trying to serve a warrant on Few when they began chasing him shortly before 9:30 p.m. Nov. 3, but that those claims didn’t bear out.

“There was no warrant,” Edmonson said.

A number of Marksville residents gathered outside the Avoyelles Parish Jail before the bail hearing, saying they saw the shooting death of Jeremy as indicative of ongoing problems with local law enforcement.

“Y’all just don’t know what the hell we go through around here,” said Ruby Ivory, of nearby Mansura, who described a number of run-ins with Marksville authorities.

Those concerns were echoed by John Lemoine, Marksville’s 63-year-old mayor, who said he’s struggled since he was first elected in 2010 to reform the city’s Police Department and dismiss troublesome officers but has been hampered by Civil Service Board rulings.

“We have citizens that deserve to be served and protected by the badge. Currently, that’s not always happening,” said Lemoine, a Marksville native and former School Board member who owns an auto shop and wrecker service in town.

Lemoine said his own issues with Stafford included an arrest in 2011 after Stafford testified in court that the mayor had threatened to physically harm another officer whom Lemoine was attempting to have dismissed following complaints. Lemoine said he never threatened the officer.

In a separate case, an Avoyelles Parish civil court jury in October 2014 found that Stafford had lied in a criminal proceeding and filed a false police report about the arrest of a man who’d complained about the officer not letting him pass through a crowded area to carry his ailing dog to receive medical care in 2012. Avoyelles Parish resident Patrick Jeansonne was arrested after Stafford heard over the police radio that someone called in a complaint about him, according to one of the man’s court filings.

The case is now on appeal in the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, said Jeansonne’s attorney Aaron Broussard.

At least five other pending civil suits name Stafford as a defendant, and two of those included Greenhouse as another defendant.

The suits include a 2012 lawsuit that alleges Stafford used a stun gun unprovoked and without warning while questioning a man. Another suit claims that Stafford used a stun gun on a handcuffed woman in the back of a police car while another accuses him of breaking a 15-year-old girl’s arm while wrestling her off a school bus.

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.

“I told Chris and Chris confronted him about it and told him, ‘Next time you come to my house I’m going to hurt you,’ ” Dixon said.

Efforts to reach an attorney for Greenhouse were unsuccessful.

Avoyelles Parish District Attorney Charles Riddle III recused himself from the case early Monday morning. Norris Greenhouse Sr., the father of one of the accused officers, has been an assistant district attorney in the parish for 20 years and is currently the head of the office’s major crimes unit.

The Louisiana Attorney General’s Office will be prosecuting the case, said agency spokesman Aaron Sadler, who added no court date has been set.

“We will begin a detailed and thorough investigation, leaving no stone unturned,” attorney general James D. “Buddy” Caldwell said in a statement. “I can simply assure you that at the end of the process, justice will be served.”

The body camera footage of the shooting, captured by Sgt. Kenneth Parnell, an on-duty Marksville police officer who arrived just before Greenhouse and Stafford allegedly opened fire, was described by Edmonson at a news conference Friday as “the most disturbing thing I’ve ever seen.”

Edmonson said Monday that only State Police investigators and the judge have seen the video. He declined to address Mark Jeansonne’s claim that Few’s hands were up and declined to discuss what exactly is depicted.

Marksville’s Police Department purchased body cameras “three or four months ago,” Lemoine said, after the city’s police commissioner, Clyde Benson, had raised concerns about controversial police shootings elsewhere in the country.

Still, Lemoine said he never anticipated that a deadly shooting would rock his small, rural municipality of about 5,700 residents.

“It’s sad for the whole community,” Lemoine said. “Nobody would’ve ever expected that to happen around here. It really hit home.”

Marksville Police Chief Elster Smith Jr. said that Stafford, a lieutenant and shift supervisor with the department, has been placed on unpaid administrative leave and that Greenhouse, a deputy Alexandria city marshal and a reserve officer in Marksville, hadn’t worked for his department in several months.

Lemoine said he anticipated the City Council taking action to dismiss both at its meeting on Thursday.

The two other officers involved in the incident — Parnell, who captured the event on his body camera, and Lt. Jason Brouillette — are on administrative leave with pay, Lemoine said. Neither of those officers are believed to have fired a shot during the confrontation, though Edmonson said State Police will be conducting ballistics tests on all four officers’ weapons to confirm that later this week.

Greenhouse, Stafford and Brouillette had been moonlighting with the Marksville City Marshal’s Office at the time of the shooting. The office — similar to a constable and overseen by Ward 2 Marshal Floyd Voinche Sr., a school bus driver who was recently re-elected to the position — normally serve subpoenas, warrants and other court documents.

Lemoine said Voinche bought a pair of used police cruisers about three months ago and began patrolling the city and issuing citations. The mayor questioned that decision and said that Voinche never consulted with the City Council or the Marksville Police Department before hiring assistants. Lemoine wrote to the state Attorney General’s Office in September asking for an opinion on whether the marshal has authority to patrol in the city limits.

“As long as I’ve been living in Marksville, his job has always been to do warrants and serve subpoenas,” Lemoine said. “I’ve never known a ward marshal to do what’s been done in this case.”

Voinche, who’d previously defended his office’s authority to patrol the city, could not be reached for comment Monday.

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