Trayford Pellerin Becomes Latest Victim of Police Brutality

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Photo By Bruce Emmerling

Black Lives Matter protesters gather to demonstrate against police brutality.

By Amy Simon, Reporter

After months of widespread protests over racial injustice and police brutality around the nation, another death has been reported in Lafayette, Louisiana. Trayford Pellerin, a 31-year-old African American man, was shot outside of a Shell gas station on Friday, August 21. Louisiana State Police Trooper Derek Senegal said that the officers fired a gun on the opposite side of the Thruway after seeing Mr. Pellerin with a knife. The scene was captured on a bystander video, now widely spread on social media.

“I’m still trying to understand what happened,” Mr. Pellerin’s mother Michelle Pellerin, said to The Advocate. “Why did it have to go this far? Why him? Everybody talks about the video, but I haven’t seen it and I don’t want to see it. I can’t.”

Lafayette officers responded at about 8 p.m. due to a reported disturbance involving a man armed with a knife on Northeast Evangeline Thruway near the intersection of Castille Avenue. Mr. Senegal reported that Mr. Pellerin avoided the officers for half a mile. The officers then used tasers, which were ineffective. Before he entered the Shell gas station, officers fired at least ten times. Mr. Pellerin was taken to a local hospital where he later died.

Nationally renowned civil rights attorney Ben Crump said that Mr. Pellerin had been suffering from social anxiety related situations and had been getting professional help. The family believes that Mr. Pellerin may have been suffering from a mental health crisis moments before his death and was frightened by the group of officers behind him.

Mr. Crump spoke to witnesses who said that Mr. Pellerin was not armed with a knife or any other weapon. However, the police dispute the fact that he was not in possession with the knife. Ronald Haley, Mr. Crump’s co-counsel said that even if Mr. Pellerin did have a knife on hand, the bystander video showed that he was not in any danger to himself or others around him.

“When I heard the gunshots, I couldn’t hold my phone like I was first filming,” Rickasha Montgomery, the bystander who recorded the video of the shooting, 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.”

In addition to justice for Mr. Pellerin’s family, Mr. Haley said that they are also seeking policy changes within the Lafayette police department.

“We want policy changes as well,” Mr. Haley said in a statement. “So that Ben and I are not in the living room with another family in Lafayette dealing with this. The family, and the people of Lafayette, deserve honesty and accountability from those who are sworn to protect them – the Lafayette Police.”

This shooting is the third time an on-duty Lafayette police officer has shot a person in five weeks. Marja Broussard, president of the Lafayette chapter of the NAACP said that the police department “will be as transparent as possible as well to continue to work with community leaders while this investigation develops.”

“We expect to do whatever we can as far as transparency goes,” Ms. Broussard said in a press release. “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.”

Protestors gathered on Saturday at the scene where Mr. Pellerin was shot in honor of his death, and to demand justice. Ms. Broussard said that they are seeking the firing of the police officers. Ms. Pellerin’s lawyers said that they plan on continuing their investigation and sue over Mr. Pellerin’s death.