Dozens of protesters and mourners gathered Saturday evening to demand justice at the spot where a 31-year-old Black man was killed by Lafayette, Louisiana, police in a hail of gunfire as he was walking away.
“Today I’m only asking for accountability. You know why? Because it was transparent what happened yesterday. It was a murder that took place,” said Ronald Haley, an attorney representing the family of Trayford Pellerin, who died outside a Shell gas station in Lafayette.
The vigil led to a march on the Evangeline Thruway, where Lafayette Parish deputies reportedly used smoke canisters and flash bangs to disperse the crowd, which was stopping traffic.
On Friday, officers fired 11 bullets at Pellerin as he approached the door of the gas station with a knife in hand, according to authorities. A shocking video of the shooting that showed Pellerin walking away from police as he was gunned down quickly sparked outrage, and Louisiana State Police are now investigating the incident.
Holding signs emblazoned with “Black Lives Matter” and “No Justice No Peace,” demonstrators decried Pellerin’s killing, and demanded that the officers involved be prosecuted. Some in the crowd sobbed as speakers took turns addressing the rally, which was organized by the NAACP and community activists.
“My family is hurting,” one of Pellerin’s relatives said through tears. “I’ve never seen nothing like this. If anybody knows what happened, please have the personal courage to come out and share what you know.”
“We need answers… Nobody knows what happened,” she said.
At one point, the crowd shouted in unison: “I promise myself today is a new day in Lafayette, Louisiana, and until there is justice there will be no peace.”
Police said they encountered Pellerin in the parking lot of a Circle K gas station in Lafayette while responding to a report of a disturbance involving a knife-wielding man around 8 p.m. Friday. He left the parking lot when cops attempted to arrest him, instead walking about a half-mile to the Shell station, police said.
Witness Rickasha Montgomery, who filmed the shooting, said she saw Pellerin get tased by police, then continue walking with what she thought was a knife in his hand. She said he was surrounded by six officers with guns drawn when he was shot and killed, as he reached the door of the Shell station.
“When I heard the gunshots, I couldn’t hold my phone like I was first filming,” she told The Daily Advertiser. “I feel kind of scared about it. I’m traumatized. You’re so used to hearing about this, but I never thought I would experience it.”
At least one cop fired his gun, and all of the officers involved have been placed on administrative leave, police said.
Pellerin’s sister, Treneca Trachelle Pellerin, paid tribute to her sibling in a Facebook post over the weekend, vowing to get him justice.
“They did my brother wrong but i promise if its all i do i will get justice for you. brother i love you so so so much. and im so angry and sad that you are gone,” she wrote.
In a Saturday statement, the ACLU decried the shooting, which is the third involving an on-duty Lafayette Police Department officer in just five weeks.
“Once again, video footage has captured a horrific and deadly incident of police violence against a Black person who was brutally killed in front of our eyes,” Alanah Odoms Hebert, the executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana, said in a statement.
“While we need to know much more about what occurred last night, we know that it began with a routine ‘disturbance’ call and cellphone video from the scene clearly shows Mr. Pellerin moving away—not towards—police officers, only to be tased and then brutally shot dead. Trayford Pellerin should be alive today. Instead, a family is mourning and a community is grieving.”
Pellerin’s family is working with civil-rights attorney Ben Crump, who has represented the families of several other high-profile victims of police brutality, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
“We stand with Trayford’s family in demanding justice and transparency into the reckless shooting and tragic killing of this man,” Crump said in a statement. “We refuse to let this case resolve like so many others: quietly and without answers and justice.”