Trayford Pellerin shooting: What we know about his death and the aftermath
Trayford Pellerin was shot and killed on Aug. 21 by Lafayette police officers who were responding to a disturbance involving a person armed with a knife.
Since the 31-year-old Black man's death, protests erupted in the city with demonstrators calling for transparency in the investigation and the firing of the officers involved. Marchers have blocked traffic on major thoroughfares and have protested outside city hall, at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and the federal courthouse.
Here's what we know:
What happened the night Trayford Pellerin was fatally shot by Lafayette police?
Lafayette police were called at about 8 p.m. on Aug. 21 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 the night of the shooting.
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. Officers tried tasering Pellerin, but it appeared to have no effect as he kept walking away from them.
At the Shell station, Pellerin attempted to enter the store. Officers said Pellerin had a knife. Police shot him in front of the door to the Shell station.
Pellerin was taken to a local hospital where he later died.
The Lafayette Police Department asked the Louisiana State Police to conduct an investigation into the shooting, which is standard protocol when their officers are involved. The officers involved in the shooting were placed on paid administrative leave.
What happened to the officers involved in Pellerin's death?
On May 11, 2021, a grand jury declined to press charges against the Lafayette police officers involved in Pellerin's death.
The grand jury considered a second-degree murder charge, and lesser charges were not considered. Don Landry, the 15th Judicial District Attorney, said the Louisiana State Police investigated the shooting and presented its findings to his office.
During the press conference, more details were released on the incident. Surveillance footage from a Circle K gas station before the incident, police body camera footage from the shooting and 911 calls were shown by Landry.
However, the names of the officers involved in Pellerin's death are still unknown and Landry said his office would not release the names.
What does the video that circulated on social media show?
A video circulating on social media captured the shooting. The video has not been confirmed or denounced by authorities.
The video shows a man walking away from several officers, who had their guns drawn. Rickasha Montgomery, who filmed the incident, can be heard in the video saying "that man got a knife."
As the man reaches the door, about a half dozen officers surround him before firing 11 shots, after which the man falls to the ground and did not move.
The video below contains graphic images and language.
How has Mayor-President Josh Guillory responded?
Guillory — alongside other local officials — was at the scene of the shooting the night Pellerin was shot. He did not issue a statement until nearly 24 hours later.
In his initial statement, Guillory defended the killing Pellerin by police, saying the Black man killed by officers at a gas station was "threatening the lives of the customers and workers inside."
His initial response, which offered no condolences for the Pellerin family, drew sharp criticism from protesters and local NAACP leaders.
Marja Broussard, the local NAACP chapter president, accused Guillory of contributing to the tensions felt in the city.
“We are not like other communities. We are a lot worse than other communities when it comes to race relations because our mayor, I’ll say it, our mayor is racist," Broussard said.
Two days after his initial statement, Guillory apologized for his initial response.
“We can recognize this pain," Guillory said. "We can grieve for the family and still support law enforcement, and we are.”
Guillory issued a proclamation a week after Pellerin's death limiting gatherings around downtown and parts of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, including areas where there have been past protests.
Guillory worked with Pellerin's family to allow them access to view body camera video of Pellerin's death.
How has Pellerin's family responded?
On Aug. 24, the family held a press conference, asking for transparency and accountability in the investigation into Pellerin's death. They want the body camera footage from officers of the shooting to be released, as well as the officers responsible for his killing be fired.
The family also called for protests to remain peaceful.
"I want the public to help keep his name going. But in a good way," said Michelle Pellerin, the victim's mother. "We are not for the violence and bloodshed. Enough blood has been shed."
The Pellerin family said nine days after the shooting that Guillory has not reached out to them personally.
"And still today we don't have answers. We haven't received a phone call from the mayor, the police department. Right now we don't know anything about the case," Choicey Pellerin said at a vigil against violence in Baton Rogue.
Protests have erupted in Lafayette since Trayford Pellerin's death
The day after Pellerin's death, protesters met for a vigil at the Shell station where Pellerin was shot.
After the vigil, protesters marched on Northeast Evangeline Thruway, blocking traffic, before marching to a nearby Lafayette Police precinct, where they were met by law enforcement agents wearing riot gear.
The next day, protesters gathered at Lafayette City Hall before moving near the Acadiana Mall and blocking traffic on Ambassador Caffery Parkway and Kaliste Saloom Road.
Protests have continued, including another protest outside Lafayette City Hall and one outside the Lafayette Federal Courthouse downtown.
In a protest on Saturday, more than 100 protesters gathered downtown for a demonstration near the statue of Confederate Gen. Alfred Mouton calling for racial justice.
At the same time, three protesters showed up outside of Guillory's home and set up a barbecue grill. Two people, including local activist Tara Laxey, were arrested in connection with that protest.
Guillory, Police Chief Scott Morgan and Lafayette Parish Sheriff Mark Garber have said "agitators" involved in protests were from out of town. Morgan said law enforcement mostly are concerned about out of state protesters.
Morgan during a weekend press conference would not elaborate on how law enforcement came to that conclusion, despite all protesters arrested in recent demonstrations living in Acadiana.
Have any lawsuits been filed after Trayford Pellerin's death?
Pellerin's family filed a federal lawsuit suing the Lafayette Police Department for damages related to his death.
The family requested a jury trial to seek damages from the police department and 10 officers, referred to in the lawsuit as John Doe numbers 1-10, who were either involved in Pellerin’s death or in charge of operations at the department, as well as interim Chief of Police Scott Morgan. Morgan has since retired from the department.
Pellerin’s parents, Michelle and Cedrick Pellerin, are not seeking a set dollar amount in the suit. Ron Haley, one of the attorneys representing the family, said the family would not settle any civil litigation against the Lafayette Police Department until all the evidence related to Pellerin’s death is made public.
What changes have been made since Trayford Pellerin's death?
After Pellerin's death, the Lafayette Police Department made changes to its use-of-force policy.
The changes came about a month after Pellerin was shot.
Work on the updates, which include ideas from the national 8 Can't Wait Campaign for police reforms, began after the death of George Floyd in May when a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck.
The revisions include banning chokeholds and strangleholds, except in the case of "reasonable use of deadly force in the defense of human life, and never as an effort to recover ingested evidence."
Officers must now use de-escalation techniques, which was practiced and taught but not in the department's use-of-force policy. Training included initial and annual de-escalation courses provided by a consultant group.
"De-escalation shall be used on all potential use-of-force incidents when safe and feasible," according to the policy update. "De-escalation may include the use of such techniques as verbal skill, warnings, time, distance, positioning, and additional personnel and resources."
The policy revision included a section mandating officers to intervene and notify the appropriate supervisory authority if they see another employee engage in unreasonable use-of force or if they become aware of a violation of department policy or law.
That intervention must be immediate when the action could result in injury or death, or violates constitutional or civil rights.
Mayor-President Josh Guillory also dedicated $1 million of coronavirus relief money to police training.
While the plan’s specifics have not yet been determined, Guillory said he anticipates using the funds for de-escalation and situational awareness training, among other forms of instruction.