LAFAYETTE, La. – A Black Lafayette man, shot Friday night by police in a flurry of 11 gunshots while surrounded by a half dozen officers, died following an incident some community leaders argue should not have ended in the fatal shooting.
Louisiana State Police identified the man killed as 31-year-old Trayford Pellerin and said he was carrying a knife when police first fired a stun weapon at him and later shot and killed him.
Rickasha Montgomery, a witness who filmed a video of the police shooting of the suspect, said she saw what appeared to be a knife in the man's hand. She said officers fired a stun weapon at him, but he kept walking down a road away from police.
She saw about six officers with guns pulled out, she said. Officers yelled for the man to get on the ground, the 18-year-old Montgomery said. But when the man reached the door of the Shell gas station, officers shot him.
"When I heard the gunshots, I couldn't hold my phone like I was first filming," the Lafayette woman said. "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."
Lafayette police asked Louisiana State Police to investigate the officer-involved shooting.
On Saturday, a protest that began peacefully came to a forced end as Lafayette Parish deputies blasted smoke and flash bang explosives at marchers who blocked Evangeline Thruway following a vigil for Pellerin.
About 150 people blocked traffic on Evangeline Thruway, a main roadway into the city, chanting "Tray" to honor the victim as they locked arms.
Officers in riot gear, including shields and gas masks, later confronted the marchers and ordering them to clear the road. They fired smoke and flash bang explosives at the crowd, forcing them to run.
Friday's incident began when Lafayette officers responded at about 8 p.m. to a disturbance involving a person armed with a knife at the Circle K gas station on Northeast Evangeline Thruway near the intersection of Castille Avenue, said Louisiana State Police spokesman Trooper Derek Senegal.
When officers arrived, they found Pellerin in the parking lot of the gas station. Officers tried to apprehend Pellerin, but he left the scene, Senegal said.
Officers pursued Pellerin, who walked about half a mile to the Shell gas station on Northeast Evangeline Thruway at the intersection of Chalmette Drive. At the Shell station, Pellerin attempted to enter the store. Police shot the man at the Shell station, Senegal said.
Pellerin was taken to a local hospital where he later died.
At least one officer fired their gun, interim Police Chief Scott Morgan said. The officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave with pay until an investigation is complete.
The family has retained Civil Rights attorney Ben Crump. Crump, who is based in Tallahassee, Florida, has represented the families of other Black men who have been shot by police, including George Floyd. He also represented the family of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old Black teen who was fatally shot by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in 2012.
"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 Saturday. "We refuse to let this case resolve like so many others: quietly and without answers and justice."
Video of man's shooting outside gas station circulating on social media
Montgomery's video circulating on social media shows a Black man in a white t-shirt and dark pants being shot by at least one officer outside the Shell gas station.
The video, which has not been confirmed by authorities as footage from the Friday night shooting, shows several officers surrounding the man before firing 11 shots at him, after which the man fell to the ground and did not move.
The incident troubles Marja Broussard, the president of the Lafayette chapter of the NAACP. She said she started receiving texts and calls and immediately headed to the scene late Friday night.
After watching the video, which she called hard to watch, Broussard said she wonders what other measures could have been taken to deescalate the situation.
"How much time did they have to diffuse it?...How much time did they have to do something other than freaking shoot?" she said. "I think that so much more could have been done."
Alanah Odoms Hebert, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, issued a statement Saturday calling the shooting an "inappropriate and excessive use of force by these officers."
"Cell phone video from the scene clearly shows Mr. Pellerin moving away – not towards – police officers, only to be tased and then brutally shot dead," Hebert said. "Trayford Pellerin should be alive today. Instead, a family is mourning and a community is grieving. Mr. Pellerin's family and the people of Lafayette deserve answers."
Officials promise to provide info: 'We’re not trying to hide anything'
The police chief promised to provide as much information to the community as possible.
"We expect to do whatever we can as far as transparency goes," Morgan said. "Please understand we are not trying to not give out information. All information has to be verified before we give information out. Part of being transparent is also to get it right."
Local officials, including Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory, Parish Councilman AB Rubin, City Councilman Glenn Lazard and Louisiana State Sen. Gerald Boudreaux, were at the scene along with representatives from the local NAACP.
"We actually look to them (community leaders) for help in these types of circumstances," Morgan said. "That’s the working relationship the Lafayette Police Department has. We’re not trying to hide anything. We involve them because we want them to have some knowledge of what’s going and an assurance that we’re not going to intervene in the investigation and we’re going to do the right thing."
This is the third time an on-duty Lafayette Police Department officer has shot a person in five weeks, and the fourth in 2020. Morgan said the circumstances for each incident vary and "we have to judge each one based on its merit."
The state ACLU's statement called the police shooting a "murder" and "brutal killing."
"None of our communities are safe when the police can murder people with impunity or when routine encounters escalate into deadly shooting sprees," according to the statement. "The ACLU of Louisiana will continue to demand justice for this brutal killing and push for reforms that will end the epidemic of police violence once and for all.”
Broussard and other community activists want transparency from the police department about the incident, which they said will help rebuild trust within the community.
Going forward, NAACP Young Adult Committee Chairperson Devon Norman said he hopes the community will support the family of the man who was shot.
"For the community to come together to make sure that whether you're from the north side of town or the south side of town that we make it clear that in the city of Lafayette police officers don't kill citizens," he said. "That police officers de-escalate situations. Police officers were meant to protect and serve and how do we do that? We put the people in jail who did this."
Contributing: Alyssa Berry
Follow Ashley White on Twitter: @AshleyyDi
This article originally appeared on Lafayette Daily Advertiser: Louisiana officers fatally shot Trayford Pellerin; police investigate