State police are investigating after marshals for the central Louisiana city of Marksville shot and killed an autistic child and critically wounded his father following a vehicle pursuit on Tuesday.
Confirmed as the youngest person killed by police this year, the boy has been identified as 6-year-old Jeremy Mardis. He was reportedly sitting in the passenger seat of the car when he was fatally struck in the head and chest by bullets fired by officers.
Police say the boys father, Chris Few, was fleeing officers attempting to serve a warrant on him and reached a dead end before trying to reverse the car and back out in the direction of the cops.
The officers then “discharged their weapons” at the vehicle, Louisiana State Police said.
“Jeremy was a special gift from God,” the boys grandmother, Samantha Few said. “He was always smiling always happy. He was diagnosed with autism when he was 2. He loved everyone he met and they loved him… He didn’t deserve what happened. He wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
Firing at moving vehicles has become a contentious issue of late with many experts including the Dept. of Justice recommending that police implement policies prohibiting such shootings as they are not an effective way to stop a car.
In fact, when drivers are hit by gunfire, experts argue, their vehicles continue to accelerate or accelerate even faster if weight falls on the gas peddle. According to a September Guardian report, cops shot and killed at least 30 people in moving cars in the first eight months of 2015.
Police chases themselves have also drawn ire. According to a USA Today investigation, “more than 5,000 bystanders and passengers have been killed in police car chases since 1979, and tens of thousands more were injured as officers repeatedly pursued drivers at high speeds and in hazardous conditions.”
Many of the victims include small children, teenage drivers, and the elderly.
Louisiana State Police announced on Wednesday that they have launched an investigation at the request of the Marksville Police Department into the most recent chase shooting of 6-year-old Jeremy and his father.
Col. Mike Edmonson said he would travel to the city on Thursday to speak with the marshals and to discuss the incident with his investigative team and the city’s police chief.
“Anytime an individual is killed, especially a child, it’s a tragedy,” Edmonson said. “The investigative team spent 12 hours Wednesday going through the entire scene from a forensic standpoint to get the trajectory of the bullets, find and count the casings and generally put the scene together.”
According to the mayor’s office, Marksville city marshals work for the city courts and serve warrants, carry firearms and have police powers. It was not yet clear what type of warrant they were trying to serve on Few.