The Black man shot and killed by Lafayette police officers while armed with a knife near Evangeline Thruway Friday night has been identified as 31-year-old Trayford Pellerin.
The shooting was captured on camera by a bystander who could be heard shouting in disbelief. The video shared widely on social media shows at least five Lafayette Police officers approaching a Black man with what witnesses said was a knife in his hand walking away from police toward a convenience store. Video then shows officers open fire near the entrance of the convenience store and at least 10 shots can be heard.
The man is then seen lying on the ground.
Louisiana State Police Trooper Derek Senegal confirmed Pellerin’s death Saturday morning. He said Pellerin was transported to an area hospital after the shooting, but he was not able to say at which point Pellerin died.
A Saturday morning statement from Senegal said Lafayette police officers responded to a disturbance call involving a person armed with a knife at a convenience store along NE Evangeline Thruway and Castille Avenue around 8 p.m. Officers attempted to apprehend Pellerin but he fled on foot and officers pursued him down Evangeline Thruway.
Officers tased Pellerin but the tasers were ineffective. Pellerin walked to a Shell gas station convenience store at NW Frontage Road and Chalmette Drive where he attempted to enter the convenience store while still armed with the knife, state police said. Officers then fired their weapons multiple times, fatally striking Pellerin.
The distance between the two gas station convenience stores is roughly .4 miles, according to Google Maps, equivalent to the distance of about seven football fields.
Lafayette NAACP President Marja Broussard said bystander video of the incident was difficult to watch and it broke her heart to hear the multiple gunshots ring out in quick succession. The NAACP leader said she was troubled by law enforcement’s bare bones description of the events leading to the shooting and questioned why more value wasn’t placed on the man’s life to attempt to resolve the situation without opening fire.
Few details are known but given the distance the man walked between the convenience stores Broussard questioned why officers in pursuit could not have found an opportunity to deescalate the situation.
“How much time did they have to defuse it? ... How much time did they have to do something other than shoot?” Broussard questioned. “I think that so much more could have been done.”
Broussard and other NAACP leaders, activists and Black leaders in local government, including State Sen. Gerald Boudreaux, city councilman Glenn Lazard and parish councilman Abraham “AB” Rubin Jr., were at the scene Friday night around 10 p.m.
It was not clear how many officers discharged their weapons during the shooting, but interim police chief Scott Morgan said LPD was turning the entire investigation over to state police. Morgan said the involved officers would be placed on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of the investigation.
Community organizers are planning a “Justice for Trayford” rally at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Shell station where Pellerin was fatally shot.
ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director Alanah Odoms Hebert issued a statement Saturday decrying the shooting and demanding justice for Pellerin’s family and reforms that will prevent future instances of police violence and fatal police action.
“Trayford Pellerin should be alive today. Instead, a family is mourning and a community is grieving. Mr. Pellerin's family and the people of Lafayette deserve answers and an independent investigation of what was clearly an inappropriate and excessive use of force by these officers. None of our communities are safe when the police can murder people with impunity or when routine encounters escalate into deadly shooting sprees,” Hebert said.
Devon Norman, Lafayette NAACP young adult committee chairperson, and local activist Marcus Simmons said they were baffled by the situation, noting the working relationship the Black community had developed with police, despite a fraught history of distrust and criminalization at the hands of police. Simmons, who was previously incarcerated, is a member of the police department’s community relations committee.
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Norman said when a friend expressed dread as the news broke, he commented: “That doesn’t happen in Lafayette,” before minutes later receiving a copy of the bystander video. He was horrified.
The men said the local police force should not have a militaristic look and feel; instead, community members should feel confident that officers are trained to de-escalate situations like the one seen Friday.
Looking beyond the investigation into Friday’s shooting, Norman and Simmons said they’d like to see greater police investment in the community, with a focus on recruiting more men and women from the area into crime prevention efforts.
In the short term, Norman said the community needs to stand united in demanding accountability.
“I think for the community to gather their arms around the family, their prayers, and for the community to come together to make sure that whether you’re from the north side of town or the south side of town, that we make it clear in the city of Lafayette police officers do not kill citizens. That police officers deescalate situations. Police officers are meant to protect and serve,” Norman said.
Broussard conferred with law enforcement and other local leaders at the shooting scene and said transparency in the investigation will be critical to building public trust and she and others will push for body camera footage to be publicly released. The public deserves to know the truth of what happened, she said.
“The truth. The whole truth. The pretty truth, the ugly truth, the unedited truth,” Broussard said.
Broussard said former Chief Toby Aguillard and Deputy Chief Reggie Thomas built bridges between the police department and the Black community through community relations work and honest communication. While current leadership may intend to do the same, those efforts have been more strained under Mayor-President Josh Guillory, as Black community leaders most recently stood against plans to shutter recreation centers in predominately Black areas of town.