Dozens of protesters gathered in Clinton this morning to demand transparency from the East Feliciana Sheriff's Office after one of its deputies shot and killed a man believed to be fleeing a convenience store with a stolen raw chicken on Monday.

"It's about time these senseless and avoidable killings stop," said Ambrose Sims, vice president of the West Feliciana branch of the NAACP. He called the shooting the latest example of police brutality against people of color in America. "We've gone from chasing and arresting suspects to simply getting out of the car and firing at them." 

[UPDATE, 2:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 18, 2019: East Feliciana deputy accidentally fired gun in fatal shooting of man stealing chicken, sheriff says]

The protest came just hours before the the sheriff's office is expected to release additional information about the shooting at a 1:30 p.m. press conference.

Christopher Whitfield, 31, who had long struggled with mental illness, was pronounced dead after an encounter with deputies early Monday outside a gas station along La. 10 in Ethel. Deputies had responded to a call from the store's owner who said a man had broken into the cooler and stolen raw chicken.  

"We're just asking for accountability from our law enforcement officers, not only here but across the country," Sims said. "Today there are two types of justice in America. Among white communities, law enforcement is looked upon as a protector, as a friend, as a neighbor. Conversely, in black communities … the officer is the intimidator, the oppressor, and now he's the executioner. This has to stop."

The sheriff's office has released few details about the shooting, including whether Whitfield had a weapon.

But the man's family said they never knew him to carry a gun. They also said law enforcement officers across the tight knit community were well aware of Whitfield's long struggle with mental illness, including the officer they believe pulled the trigger. The sheriff's office has not yet confirmed the deputy's identity. 

"You wasn't protecting and serving. You was killing," Whitfield's sister Phelicia Whitfield said. "We want answers. … My brother can't speak for himself. He's not here."

She said her brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia years ago but was not a violent person. 

Video from the scene showed that some protesters directed their remarks at a small group of law enforcement officers acting as security outside the courthouse in Clinton. "No justice, no peace. No racist police," they chanted, many holding signs demanding "Justice for Christopher." 

Representatives of the NAACP also asked for federal authorities with the U.S. Department of Justice to come investigate the shooting. They said they're not satisfied with the response they've seen from the sheriff's office, which is leading their own investigation into Whitfield's death with assistance from State Police — an unusual decision since normal protocol for Louisiana law enforcement agencies is to turn over the entire investigation to State Police or another outside authority.

Email Lea Skene at lskene@theadvocate.com.