BATON ROUGE, La. – A former Louisiana law enforcement officer pleaded guilty on Friday to negligent homicide in the shooting death of a 6-year-old autistic boy after a car chase with the boy's father. He is scheduled to be sentenced next week to 7 ½ years in prison.
Norris Greenhouse Jr. also pleaded guilty to malfeasance in office in a deal that allows him to avoid trial next week. He was charged with second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder in the shooting that killed Jeremy Mardis and critically wounded his father, Christopher Few.
A second former officer, Derrick Stafford, was convicted of manslaughter in March and sentenced to 40 years in prison.
Greenhouse and Stafford were moonlighting as deputy city marshals in Marksville at the time of the November 2015 shooting.
Video from another police officer's body camera shows Few had his hands raised inside his vehicle while Stafford and Greenhouse collectively fired 18 shots at it.
Defense attorneys claimed the officers acted in self-defense, accusing the slain boy's father of leading officers on a dangerous, high-speed chase.
Stafford testified at his trial that he didn't know the boy was in the car and didn't see Few's hands in the air. But he said he shot at the car because he feared Few was going to back up and hit Greenhouse with his vehicle.
Investigators traced 14 shell casings to Stafford's gun and four other casings to Greenhouse's gun. Three of the four bullet fragments recovered from Jeremy's body matched Stafford's weapon; another couldn't be matched to either deputy.
The plea agreement calls for Greenhouse to be sentenced next Wednesday to 7 ½ years in prison, said Ruth Wisher, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Jeff Landry's office.
Landry said the plea "brings an end to a terrible tragedy."
"Jeremy Mardis was killed through senseless and irresponsible acts of violence," he said in a statement, adding that "those responsible for Jeremy's killing have been held accountable."
Still pending, however, is a federal lawsuit the boy's relatives filed last year against the central Louisiana town of Marksville, claiming city officials failed to properly train the deputies on the use of deadly force.
"I think the family is satisfied that Norris Greenhouse Jr. has accepted responsibility for his part in this tragic set of circumstances," said Steven Lemoine, an attorney for the slain boy's family.
Greenhouse's attorney, George Higgins, said he thinks his client "just realized this needs to end — not only for Avoyelles Parish but especially for his family."
Stafford and Greenhouse are black. Few is white, and so was his son. Defense attorneys accused investigators of rushing to judgment, arresting the officers less than a week after the shooting. One of Stafford's attorneys has questioned whether investigators would have acted more deliberately if the officers had been white.