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From left, Carlos Harvin, Chief of Minority Affairs, Craig Stansbury, Police Chief Scott Morgan, and Pat Lewis, City Council District 1, accompany Mayor President Josh Guillory, right, during a press conference to address storm preparations and local unrest on Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, at the Lafayette Police Department.

Mayor-President Josh Guillory on Monday attempted a do-over of his response to the Lafayette Police killing of 31-year-old Trayford Pellerin, and to mend his rapidly souring relationship with Black residents.

Guillory met with religious leaders, apologized for how he handled his decision to close four recreation centers in Black neighborhoods and told reporters that he was “grieving the fact that we have a family in pain.”

Guillory’s brief comments expressed something that his first statement concerning Pellerin’s killing did not: condolences for the Pellerin family.

Yet Guillory still has not contacted the Pellerin family, according to the family’s lawyer, Ronald Haley, and Gulliory's comments on Monday did not include any mention of Pellerin's name. 

“Empathy should be the floor, not the ceiling of what you should get from your mayor-president in a situation like this,” Haley said in an interview.

Guillory’s initial statement, issued 24 hours after the shooting, offered thoughts and prayers to “our community tonight, and with the men and women in uniform who put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe.”

The omission of Pellerin’s family inflamed outrage at weekend protests over Pellerin’s killing. Local NAACP leaders called for Guillory’s removal, with the chapter president calling him a racist. Activists have said they are planning a recall effort.

Outcry over the recreation centers prompted Guillory to shift course this month by seeking private operators to keep them open, but the move will still result in the loss of 37 city-parish jobs. Earlier this year, Guillory upset many residents by eliminating the position of a popular Black police deputy.

Guillory’s attempt at a fresh start Monday did not register a mention from Lafayette’s three Black councilmembers when speaking to reporters that evening at the Pellerin family’s home. They spoke mostly to urge protesters to be peaceful, but City Councilmember Glenn Lazard drew attention to Guillory’s treatment of the family.

“I think he could have shown more empathy,” Lazard said, later adding that he does not have a position on Guillory’s removal from office.

Haley, who spoke at the Pellerin home after Lazard, compared Lafayette Police’s handling of Pellerin with that of Donald Guidry, a 42-year-old white man who on Aug. 5 led Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s deputies on a chase along Evangeline Thruway after evading a traffic stop in a stolen pickup truck.

Guidry, armed with a knife, stayed in the truck after coming to a stop at the Willow Street intersection, near the Shell gas station where Pellerin was shot. He was coaxed into surrendering after a standoff that lasted more than an hour.

“I’m glad that they showed respect for Donald, and I’m hoping he gets the help that he needs. But doggone it, they should have shown the same restraint for Mr. Pellerin,” Haley said.

State Police say Pellerin, armed with a knife, fled police after a disturbance call at a convenience store on Evangeline Thruway. Police chased Pellerin to another store, at a Shell gas station about a half-mile away. Stun-gun rounds did not subdue him, according to State Police. A viral video shows police swarming as Pellerin approached the store, and opening fire with at least 10 shots as he reached for the door. 

Pellerin’s sister recently worked at the store, although she was not there the night Pellerin was killed, Haley said. Pellerin, who has a history of mental illness, may have gone there seeking the comfort of a loved one during a crisis, he said.

Guillory’s initial statement, issued nearly 24 hours after the shooting, did not identify Pellerin by name, referring only to “a knife-wielding suspect” who threatened the lives of customers and store employees.

Guillory on Monday said it is possible to support law enforcement and show compassion for grieving family members at the same time.

“We do have a family in our community that is hurting. We can recognize that. We have a member in our community that was fatally shot,” Guillory said. “We can recognize that and still support law enforcement as I do.”

Asked why he had not previously acknowledged Pellerin's family, Guillory said "it's a fair point" he had not done so earlier, though he still did not refer to Pellerin by name.  

"Immediately when I heard the situation, I began praying, praying for his soul, praying for his family," Guillory said.

Guillory, referring to his meeting with the Senior Pastoral Alliance of Southwest Louisiana, said he “did offer an apology for things that could have been handled differently,” though he did not specify what he had apologized for.

Two people in the meeting said Guillory apologized for not consulting with Black clergy before deciding to close the recreation centers, and that he committed to monthly meetings with clergy. A spokesman for Guillory confirmed the reason for the apology, and the agreement to monthly meetings.

“His apology was, he made some assumptions about our community that he should not have made,” said the Pastoral Alliance president, the Rev. Ricky Carter of Good Hope Baptist Church. “He hurt people who have poured so much into the City of Lafayette, who have poured so much into the North Side, and people who benefit from the recreation centers.”

Larry Lloyd, a bishop and founder of Spirit of Liberty Christian Fellowship, said his church started in 1979 as a result of Bible studies at the Heymann Park recreation center, one of those initially slated for closure and now set for privatization.

“All of the families, and all of the churches have a personal connection with those recreation centers,” Lloyd said.

As for Pellerin, they said Guillory heard their concerns that police did not consider Pellerin’s mental health or do everything they could to deescalate before opening fire. The Pastoral Alliance does not want to see Guillory removed, and instead prefers “reconciliation and healing,” Carter said.

Another member of the Pastoral Alliance, the Rev. Cory Young of St. James Baptist Church, called for more drastic action at a Sunday rally at City Hall. Young said he wants to “destroy” an unjust criminal justice system, which he blamed for Pellerin’s death.

But Young did not explicitly call for Guillory’s removal, unlike local NAACP president Marja Broussard, who spoke a few minutes before him.

“Do we just want Josh Guillory out? There has to be more than that,” Young said. “The devil wants us to think it’s just one person against another person. That’s how the enemy works. He wants us to think it’s us against Josh Guillory. No, we are fighting against a system that’s messed up that needs to change.”

Young, speaking in a phone call, criticized Guillory for waiting to consult with religious leaders until after he needed their help. But he said he supports the Pastoral Alliance’s continued engagement with Guillory — with limitations.

“I believe that is a start. If that can happen, great. If that can’t happen, we need to start talking about his resignation and removal from office,” Young said, emphasizing that he did not speak for the Pastoral Alliance. “Right now, I believe he is failing in the part of being the mayor-president for everybody in the city and parish of Lafayette.”

Haley, the Pellerin family’s lawyer, said the family is not happy with Guillory, but they have no position on his removal. They are instead focused on the release of bodycam footage and commissioning an independent autopsy, Haley said.

Haley said he is not impressed with Guillory’s attempts to make amends with religious leaders.

“Meeting with clergy is a way to try to control people. It has nothing to do with Trayford and his family,” Haley said. “Let’s meet with the clergy to try to control these Black folks. Get them back in line. They will listen to y’all, and y’all can listen to me.”


Email Ben Myers at bmyers@theadvocate.com. Follow Ben Myers on Twitter, @blevimyers.