State police release names, accounts of Lafayette police who fatally shot Trayford Pellerin

Ashley White Andrew Capps
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

Two months after a Lafayette grand jury declined to charge the officers who fatally shot Trayford Pellerin in August 2020, the Louisiana State Police has released their names and accounts of the incident.

The names and accounts were included in the state police investigation into the fatalshooting of the 31-year-old Black man, which detectives ultimately deemed a justifiable homicide. 

The grand jury considered and rejected second-degree murder charges, and lesser charges were not considered. 

Trayford Pellerin shooting:What do we know about the grand jury

When 15th Judicial District Attorney Don Landry presented the grand jury's findings in May, he refused to release the officers' names and later redacted them in public records requests. 

District Attorney Donald Landry holds press conference to report that the grand jury has returned a no true bill and that no person will be prosecuted for any crimes for the death of Trayford Pellerin on August 21, 2020.  Tuesday, May 11, 2021.

The Lafayette Police Department has not fulfilled a May public records request from the Daily Advertiser seeking the officers' names and other records relating to the shooting. 

Pellerin was shot on Aug. 21, after officers responded to a disturbance involving a man with a knife at a North Lafayette gas station. Officers followed Pellerin, who was holding a folding pocket knife, to a convenience store and repeatedly called for him to drop the knife.

Lafayette police shooting:Timeline of events in the death of Trayford Pellerin

Two officers deployed tasers, but neither worked. As Pellerin approached the door to a convenience store, officers called for Pellerin to stop. When he did not, officers shot him. 

Investigators determined that three LPD officers fired their guns at Pellerin during the incident, one of whom was hired in 2019.

Officer Malik D. S. Savoy, 24, joined LPD about a year before Pellerin was fatally shot last August. He was the newest officer to fire his gun during the incident, and fired five shots, while Sr. Cpl. Tyler S. Howerton, a 34-year-old who joined the force in 2009, was the longest-serving LPD officer to fire at Pellerin that night and fired three.

Officer Kevin M. McFarlain, 28, fired his weapon four times during the shooting. He has been with LPD since 2017 and is a K-9 handler. All three officers gave written statements to state police during the agency's investigation into Pellerin's death outlining their accounts of that night.

Screenshot of surveillance footage in Trayford Pellerin case

"After a careful and thorough review of the evidence collected, interviews conducted, and facts learned during the investigation, I did not find probable cause to substantiate criminal charges against Sr. Cpl. Howerton, Ofc. Savoy, and Ofc. McFarlain," detective Georgiana Kibodeaux wrote in her investigative report in December.

What officers said happened the night Trayford Pellerin was shot

According to the state police investigation, one witness called 911 to report thata man, later identified as Pellerin, had a knife and was "terrifying customers" at a gas station on the Evangeline Thruway.

Lafayette Police officers Jarrell Moss and Pablo Estrada were the first to arrive at the gas station at about 8 p.m. They saw Pellerin, who turned and walked away from them, according to Moss' interview with state police. 

Officers commanded Pellerin to stop and drop the knife but he ran from them. Two officers tried unsuccessfully to use a Taser on Pellerin. 

Officers followed Pellerin on foot to a second gas station while others arrived to the scene in their cruisers before the standoff in the second gas station parking lot.

There were multiple people, who "appeared concerned and unsure," inside the gas station's convenience store, Estrada said in his interview with state police. 

Estrada was later fired from LPD for a November 2020 incident in which he punched a handcuffed suspect at the parish jail during an arrest.

More:Lafayette police officer fired after pushing, punching handcuffed man appeals termination

About the time Pellerin reached the parking lot, officers drew their weapons, according to the report. Estrada had his gun out but lowered it when other officers blocked his line of view.

Before Pellerin could enter the store, McFarlain, Savoy and Howerton shot him.

All three officers told state police they feared for the safety of the people inside the store and for officers' safety. 

More:Lafayette Police officers who fatally shot Trayford Pellerin won't face charges, DA says

Savoy said he felt there were no other “non-lethal options.” 

“If Pellerin entered the store, Ofc. Savoy felt there would be multiple casualties or a hostage situation,” the state police report reads. “Ofc. Savoy also thought Pellerin might turn back towards officers if he could not enter the store.”

The knife Trayford Pellerin was carrying was shot in the handle on Aug. 21, 2020. 

This image is a screenshot from Lafayette Police Department body camera footage. It was presented by 15th Judicial District Attorney Don Landry during a press conference regarding the results of the grand jury that will not move press charges against the police officers involved in Trayford Pellerin's death.

McFarlain, who responded to the scene with his K-9, told state police he could not deploy the dog because may have attacked other officers instead of Pellerin. The K-9 is trained to identify movement and sound, not a police uniform, he said.

He shot Pellerin because he thought Pellerin would stab someone in the store had he gotten inside.

“He perceived the threat based on Pellerin's actions and the manner he held the knife in his hand,” the state police investigator wrote. “Ofc. McFarlain stated he could not live with himself if Pellerin would have stabbed someone in the store.”

Howerton said he didn’t use pepper spray because Pellerin was facing away from him and was too far away.

“Pellerin was still armed with the knife when he reached to open the door. Sr. Cpl. Howerton believed the safety of the citizens inside the store was at risk,” the state police investigator wrote. “The LPD did not train him to disarm a suspect with an edged weapon by baton or hand.”

Pellerin's family has filed a federal lawsuit against the Lafayette Police Department for damages related to his death. 

More:Trayford Pellerin's family sues Lafayette Police Department over his fatal shooting

Family and attorney of Trayford Pellerin

The family is requesting a jury trial to seek damages from the police department and 10 previously unidentified officers who were either involved in Pellerin’s death or in charge of operations at the department. 

Follow Andrew Capps on Twitter or send an email to acapps@theadvertiser.com. Ashley White can be reached at adwhite@theadvertiser.com.