Black Lives Matter protesters gathered outside the Louisiana State Capitol late Friday afternoon, then marched to the state Department of Justice building where they filed a formal complaint demanding an investigation into the recent fatal police shooting of Trayford Pellerin in Lafayette. 

"We are bringing this to a statewide and nationwide audience today … taking our demands to the highest levels of power in the state," said Devon Norman, one of the march organizers.

Pellerin died Aug. 21 after Lafayette police officers opened fire while he was about to enter a convenience store armed with a knife, officials have said. Earlier attempts to stop him using a stun gun didn't work, according to police, though an independent autopsy commissioned by the family found no signs he had been struck with a taser.

Officers had pursued him on foot for half a mile after receiving a call about a man with a knife at another convenience store on Evangeline Thruway. The shooting was captured on cell phone video and shared on social media.

Protesters said the circumstances of Pellerin's death highlight the persistent systemic injustices facing Black people in America.

"The South is just as sick as it was six or eight decades ago. We have replaced physical chains with theoretical chains," Norman said. "People are tired of the status quo. We want to show the nation and the world that the South can be a catalyst for change."

At least 100 protesters participated in the march, including several members of the New Black Panther Party, an organization based in Dallas that was involved in the heated protests in Baton Rouge following the 2016 police shooting of Alton Sterling.

"If you're not gonna give us justice peacefully, then you open up the door for anarchy," said Krystal Muhammad, national chair of the organization. "You have a chance right now. This is happening all over America."

The march started outside the Louisiana State Capitol building and proceeded to the state Department of Justice, then to the governor's mansion. A small group of people with the Louisiana Cajun Militia, who were armed and dressed in bulletproof vests, waited for the protesters across from the governor's mansion but said they did not wish to be identified as counter protesters. 

The Baton Rouge protest was held the day after Pellerin's funeral in Lafayette. The service included remarks from Rev. Al Sharpton, the national civil rights activist and minister, who condemned the actions of Lafayette police and encouraged activists to "keep marching no matter who criticizes you."

The Pellerin shooting has sparked heated protests in Lafayette over the past few weeks, including over the mayor's response to Pellerin's death, which initially focused on support for law enforcement and failed to acknowledge the Pellerin family's pain. 

However, Mayor Josh Guillory later met with the family and apologized for his earlier words, promising to arrange for relatives to see the bodycam video of the shooting. A judge temporarily blocked release of the video, in addition to names of the three officers involved, earlier this week. But a final ruling will be made after a hearing Sept. 15.

The protesters in Baton Rouge demanded release of the footage and additional transparency during the ongoing law enforcement investigation into the shooting, which is being conducted by State Police. That will determine whether the officers involved could ultimately face criminal charges. 

Attorneys for the Pellerin family said they filed a complaint with the Louisiana Attorney General's office on Friday afternoon, asking the agency to conduct its own investigation into the Pellerin shooting and other police brutality cases. 

Sandra Sterling, aunt of Alton Sterling, said she is tired of demanding justice. She said four years after her nephew was killed, nothing has changed.

"It could be my son; it could be your son," said attorney Dedrick Moore who represents the Pellerin family. "It's unfair and unjust. As a people we deserve more."


Email Lea Skene at lskene@theadvocate.com.