A temporary restraining order blocking the release of information concerning the Lafayette Police killing of 31-year-old Trayford Pellerin was dismissed Tuesday, clearing the way for Pellerin's family to see body camera footage of the Aug. 21 shooting.
Judge David Smith of the 15th Judicial District issued the restraining order Sept. 8 at the request of lawyers representing three unidentified officers. They requested the order after Mayor-President Josh Guillory agreed to allow Pellerin's family to see body camera footage, with identifying images of the officers blurred out.
After arguing strenuously in open court that the Pellerin family did not have a right to see the footage, one of the officer's lawyers, Allyson Prejean, emerged from a private conference and agreed to the dismissal without explanation.
The Acadiana Advocate, along with KATC-TV and The Daily Advertiser filed a petition Friday asking the court to dismiss an order blocking acces…
The three officers are subjects of a Louisiana State Police homicide investigation, and Prejean had argued that Guillory's allowance of limited access to footage for Pellerin's family was "possibly bordering on interfering" with the investigation. It also created a "Pandora's box" for other pending cases, she said.
"If it's good for one, it's good for all," Prejean said, meaning evidence in all open homicide cases could become eligible for disclosure if Guillory's agreement with the family was allowed to proceed.
A lawyer for the Guillory administration, Stephen Oats, agreed with Prejean that state law exempts public records — such as body camera footage — from disclosure when they are part of a criminal investigation. But the exemption is not the same as a mandatory restriction, he said, and Guillory, as the ultimate custodian of the records, has the discretion to share the records with whomever he pleases.
"He believes it's the right thing to do, and there's nothing that prevents him from doing it," Oats said.
It is not clear what occurred in the private conference that prompted the officers' lawyers to relent. Those representing Lafayette Consolidated Government as well as the officers left without speaking to reporters.
Attorneys for Trayford Pellerin’s family filed a petition Friday challenging a temporary restraining order that would bar the release of body …
The Pellerin family, Lafayette Consolidated Government and several media companies, including the Acadiana Advocate, petitioned the court to allow access to the body cam video and to unseal the record in the injunction. Smith lifted the seal.
The Pellerin family's lawyers argued public access would not impair investigations or civil litigation; no litigation has been filed to date, discovery would regardless be necessary before a civil suit could be filed and release of the information would not alter or impair the evidence itself, maintaining the integrity of law enforcement’s investigation.
After the hearing, the Pellerin family's lawyers said they understand the footage is being prepared for the family's viewing, but that no date has been scheduled. Once that occurs, they may have additional demands or take other civil action, depending on what the footage shows, they said.
“Once we are able to process what actually happened to Trayford, at that point we will pivot and then move forward. Is this the end of it? Absolutely not," said lawyer Chase Trichell. "We are not entirely certain what that will look like going forward. We will make that determination once we see the video.”
Guillory's spokesman, Jamie Angelle, said he was not immediately sure when the viewing will occur.
Black Lives Matter protesters gathered outside the Louisiana State Capitol late Friday afternoon, then marched to the state Department of Just…
Pellerin died Aug. 21 after Lafayette police officers opened fire while he walked away from them and toward 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.
In a meeting with the Pellerin family Sept. 4, Guillory said he would allow the family privately to view police body camera footage from the shooting, according to Ronald Haley, a lawyer for the Pellerin family.
Guillory sent a letter to District Attorney Keith Stutes' office Sept. 8 informing him of his intent to let the family view the footage, according to a news release distributed by Chief Communications Officer Jamie Angelle.
"Mayor-President Guillory is committed to honoring the promise he made to the Pellerin family and has directed City-Parish attorneys to advocate for the accommodation of a private viewing for the family of the footage at a hearing scheduled," a statement from Guillory's office said.