As of Thursday morning, at least 834 people had been shot and killed by American police officers so far this year.
Six-year-old Jeremy David Mardis is the youngest among them.
The autistic first-grader was sitting in the front passenger seat of a car being driven by his father, Chris Few, in Marksville, La., when city marshals attempted to serve the man a warrant about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday night. Few fled, eventually turning down a dead-end street.
Police say Few then attempted to back his vehicle out, striking officers’ cruisers, prompting a hail of gunfire that left him hospitalized.
An official briefed on the shooting said that Few was unarmed when two officers opened fire, shooting between 13 and 18 bullets combined. That official said it is unclear if the shooting was captured on camera.
“Days like these I wish I was a plumber,” said L. J. Mayeux, the Avoyelles Parish coroner. “These last two days have been bad, and it’s getting worse.”
Five of the officers’ bullets pierced Jeremy’s body, Mayeux said, with the two fatal shots hitting him in the head and chest.
“Jeremy was a special gift from God. He was always smiling, always happy,” the slain child’s grandmother, Samantha Few, told a local television station. “He was diagnosed with autism when he was 2. He loved everyone he met and they loved him. … He didn’t deserve what happened.”
There have been at least 85 fatal on-duty police shootings this year that began with officers attempting to serve an arrest warrant, according to a Washington Post analysis. Police note that serving warrants is one of the more dangerous elements of their job and often result in armed confrontations. Many police departments, however, ban their officers from shooting at moving vehicles, arguing that it makes situations more dangerous for the officers as well as bystanders.
“Anytime an individual is killed, especially a child, it’s a tragedy,” Col. Mike Edmonson, head of the Louisiana State Police, told reporters, adding that state officials continue to investigate the shooting.
Jeremy is one of 17 children who have been shot and killed by police officers this year — and is one of two of those cases in which the child killed was completely unarmed.
Eleven of those cases have involved teenagers who police say were armed with guns. In one case, police say, a 17-year-old girl refused to put down a knife, and in two other cases, police say the teen drove a vehicle at them, and in one case a teen was holding a toy weapon when she was shot.
“Grief counseling has been and is being provided to students and at Lafargue Elementary School,” said Blaine Dauzat, superintendent of the Avoyelles Parish School district, who in an e-mail said Jeremy began attending school in the district last April. “We are deeply saddened by this loss. It was a tragedy and we have had a rough couple of days around here dealing with it. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family in this extremely trying time.”