MARKSVILLE — A chase dead-ending Tuesday night at a shuttered state park in Marksville ended in the death of a 6-year-old boy after deputy city marshals opened fire on the car his father had been driving.
The boy, identified as Jeremy David Mardis, was shot multiple times in the head and torso and pronounced dead at the scene, the Avoyelles Parish coroner, Dr. Lovell L.J. Mayeaux Jr., said Wednesday. Jeremy was a first-grader at Lafargue Elementary School in the nearby central Louisiana town of Effie.
The boy’s father, 25-year-old Chris Few, also was shot multiple times. He was airlifted to Rapides Regional Medical Center in Alexandria, where he was listed in stable condition.
Mayeaux said the boy was in the vehicle when he was shot and it appears that all the shots came from outside and through the driver’s side of the vehicle. The coroner said the investigation is ongoing, but the “working theory” is that all the shots were fired by city marshals.
Jeremy was sitting in the front passenger seat of the vehicle when he was shot, Mayeaux said.
Few, with his son in tow, had led the marshals on a chase through Marksville shortly before 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, speeding down Martin Luther King Drive in the town before being pinned in by at least two patrol cars at a two-way intersection in front of the gates of the closed Marksville State Historical Site, a now-closed state park that features a number of Indian mounds.
What exactly prompted the chase and then the shooting remains unclear, but The Town Talk in Alexandria reported that Few threw his truck into reverse and tried to run his car into one of the marshal’s vehicles.
Two nearby residents said they heard rapid gunfire shortly after police sirens raced down the street. One resident estimated he heard “six or seven” gunshots, while another said he counted at least 10. Trooper Daniel “Scott” Moreau, a State Police spokesman, confirmed that the marshals “discharged their duty weapons” but couldn’t say how many rounds had been fired.
Spray-painted markings on the street show the location of four vehicles at the site of the shooting. On the driver’s side of one of the markings, at least 17 painted spots possibly show where shell casings or other evidence was recovered.
Moreau said it wasn’t yet clear if there was a weapon inside Few’s car or if anyone besides the ward marshals had fired during the confrontation.
Moreau said investigators from State Police’s Alexandria field office had received initial statements from the marshals involved in the shooting but hadn’t yet interviewed any of those involved. Moreau said the investigation was “still in its infancy” but he wouldn’t be able to say whether the marshals had fired the deadly shots until after ballistics tests and a final autopsy report have been completed.
At TJ’s Lounge, a bar and service station in Marksville, a bartender and patrons said that Few — a familiar face there since relocating from Mississippi about a year ago — had been hanging out there earlier Tuesday, playing pool with a girlfriend before leaving about 9 p.m., less than a half-hour before the fatal shooting. None were sure whether Jeremy had been waiting in the car or if Few picked him up later.
“It just blows my mind that all this happened,” one said, referring to Few as a friendly, low-key guy.
Few’s mother, Samantha Few, declined to be interviewed but told WAFB-TV in a written statement that Jeremy, her grandson, was autistic and a “special gift from God.”
“He was always smiling always happy,” Few told WAFB.
“He loved everyone he met and they loved him. As far as what caused his death, the only thing I have been told is he died from gun shot wounds. He didn’t deserve what happened. He wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
Marksville Police Chief Elster Smith Jr. could not be reached for comment Wednesday, as he spent the entire day on the scene of another major — though entirely unrelated — emergency in the small city of 5,700 that is also the parish seat. According to Avoyelles Today, 32-year-old Will Ray Lachney took a shotgun from a hunter in the nearby woods, fired it in the air after being confronted by a passing police officer, and barricaded himself inside his mother’s apartment, about a mile or less from the scene of Tuesday night’s shooting.
During Wednesday’s standoff, a Marksville police officer accidentally shot Lachney’s mother in the arm. The woman had gone into the apartment to talk her son into surrendering before ending up in a struggle with her son over the shotgun, the newspaper reported.
Marksville’s Ward 2 marshal, Floyd Voinche Sr., also could not be reached Wednesday. The elected position, similar to a constable, is a certified law enforcement officer with jurisdiction in the town but is primarily tasked — along with a number of deputies — with serving court documents, including warrants and civil suits.
The deputy marshals involved in Tuesday night’s shooting were off-duty Marksville police officers who were working extra duty for the Ward 2 Marshal’s Office. Smith, the Marksville police chief, told Avoyelles Today he will meet with the city attorney before deciding what action, if any, would be taken with the officers, who were not identified.
An autopsy on Jeremy was performed Wednesday afternoon. Mayeaux said initial results were turned over to the Louisiana State Police, who are investigating the shooting, but the findings will not be made public at this time.
Blaine Dauzat, superintendent of the Avoyelles Parish school district, said grief counselors were sent to Lafargue Elementary School on Wednesday to help comfort Jeremy’s classmates and teachers.
“It’s obviously a very tragic loss,” Dauzat said. “We’re all deeply saddened.”