Few lawsuit claims Marksville police, marshal office guilty of 'deliberate indifference'

Civil suit is related to fatal shooting of 6-year-old in November 2015


   Everyone knew it was coming, and with the one-year anniversary of the shooting death of 6-year-old Jeremy Mardis only a few days away, they knew it was coming soon.
   On Oct. 27 -- one week to the day before the one-year anniversary of one of Marksville’s most tragic events -- the suit was filed. It was filed in federal court in Alexandria rather than in the state district court in Marksville. Jeremy’s father Christopher Few and his grandmothers, Catherine Mardis and Candace Few, are the plaintiffs in the suit.
   The suit is 96 pages long. Among all the citing of legal precedents and the recounting of the various facts and allegations that are part of this case, the comments that seem to jump off the page are the attorneys’ claims concerning the lack of training and supervision of the law enforcement officers involved in this tragedy.
Barbaric & excessive
   The lawsuit calls the shooting a "barbaric and excessive use of deadly force" that fits a pattern of behavior that city officials failed to punish and correct.
   "Proper use of deadly force training would have enabled Stafford and Greenhouse to recognize that neither Christopher nor Jeremy presented an imminent risk of death or great bodily harm to anyone at or near the scene," the suit states.
   The plaintiffs’ attorneys point out that the Legislature “has found that law enforcement work is of such importance to health, safety, welfare or the people of this state and is of such a nature as to require education and training of a professional character.”
   Despite that, the suit notes that the City Marshal’s Office had no written policy concerning the hiring, training and discipline of its deputies; the firing or termination of officers; the disciplining of officers; policies dealing with “use of force” and “use of deadly force;” or procedures for the training of officers.
   The suit's main argument against the government institutions being sued is summed up in the following statement:
  “Given the moral certainty that law enforcement officers will be called upon to use force, including deadly force, when apprehending suspects or otherwise discharging their duties as peace officers, the need to refrain from hiring officers with a history of excessive use of force and to train officers in the constitutional limitations on the use of deadly force is so obvious  that the failure to do so and the failure to adopt, implement and enforce appropriate and adequate policies to ensure these objectives is properly characterized as deliberate indifference to constitutional rights.”
   The attorneys continue by noting that “in hiring Stafford and Greenhouse, City Court of the Town of Marksville, Floyd Voinche, the Town of Marksville and Parish ratified and accepted their long history of the use of excessive force and, in so doing, made such excessive use of force their official, custom, policy or practice by ratification or inaction."
   The suit includes several examples of the accuseds’ “prior bad acts” that attorneys claim show a pattern of behavior that culminated in the fatal shooting of Nov. 3, 2015. The suit notes that those in supervisory authority over Greenhouse and Stafford ”had knowledge, actual and/or constructive, of complaints and lawsuits alleging excessive use of force by other officers employed by the Town of Marksville, as well.
Supervisors failed
   “Despite this knowledge of numerous incidents involving the excessive use of force by peace officers, these defendants failed to properly investigate the complaints and incidents, failed to properly discipline the involved officers, failed to properly scrutinize the background of new hires and failed to properly train peace officers regarding the constitutional limitations on the use of force such that these defendants ratified the excessive use of force.”
   The suit states that the number of incidents “were so numerous, it was obvious to any reasonable policy maker or decision maker that it would continue if appropriate policies were not promulgated, implemented and enforced through training and discipline.” 
   The suit claims those defendants are liable for the damages “caused by their deliberate indifference.”