Police officers in Marksville, Louisiana, shot and killed a 6-year-old and critically wounded his father following a vehicle pursuit on Tuesday.
Avoyelles Parish Coroner Dr. L. J. Mayeux later identified the boy as Jeremy Mardis. He was reportedly in the passenger seat of the car when he was fatally struck in the head and chest.
Jeremy is now the youngest person to have been killed by police in the U.S. this year, according to unofficial data collected by The Guardian.
His father, identified as Chris Few, was driving the vehicle when police opened fire. Mayuex told The Associated Press that Few reached a dead end during the chase, at which point he attempted to reverse the car into the officers. The officers then “discharged their weapons” at the vehicle, Louisiana State Police said.
"More likely than not they were shooting into the driver side, and he was on the passenger side," Mayeux told the AP. "He was in the line of fire."
Louisiana State Police announced on Wednesday that they had launched an investigation into the incident at the request of the Marksville Police Department.
Few had previously posted photos of his son on his Facebook page:
In a statement to WAFB, Jeremy's grandmother, Samantha Few, said the boy had been living with autism.
"Jeremy was a special gift from God," she 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. 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."
The U.S. Department of Justice recommends that police departments institute policies prohibiting officers from shooting into moving vehicles, primarily because it's not an effective tactic to stop a car that is driving toward an officer.
But some forces still don't have such rules in place. Earlier this year, the Denver Police Department agreed to change its policy after officers fatally shot a 17-year-old girl whom they claimed was trying to run them over. The officers were ultimately cleared in the shooting.
It's not clear whether a moving vehicle policy exists in Marksville. The department was not immediately available to comment on the matter.
A Guardian report from September found that police had shot and killed at least 30 people in moving cars in the first eight months of 2015.