One week after an unarmed man was shot and killed while panhandling in a Trader Joe's parking lot, activists and community members held a vigil at the same spot, calling for justice. 

The death of Danny Buckley, 61, prompted public outcry when police did not immediately arrest the man who killed him. Jace Boyd, 24, claimed he acted in self-defense while Buckley was "aggressively harassing customers" in the parking lot, according to a police report.

Three days after the shooting, detectives issued a warrant for Boyd's arrest, and two days after that he was taken into custody by BRPD officers with help from the Louisiana State Police Fugitive Task Force.

Saturday's vigil was organized by Democracy at Work LSU and other community activists. Organizers say the event was held for the family to have a platform to mourn their loss, but also for concerned voices to seek change. 

"Danny Buckley was murdered for panhandling by a vigilante who decided, on his own, that he would be the judge, jury and executioner," said Soheil Saneei, lead organizer for the student group. "We want to make the connection that this isn’t an individual situation — it’s connected to a wider and broader system of problems." 

Buckley was Black and Boyd is White. Attorneys for Buckley's family claim the shooting was a hate crime and question whether police would have handled the case differently if a young Black man shot an older White man in the same upscale Perkins Road shopping center.

More than one hundred people gathered in the parking lot of Trader Joe's on Perkins Road around 7 p.m. Saturday night, some bearing bouquets of flowers, others Black Lives Matter flags or signs. Most of the crowd was made up of young people. 

After a moment of silence at the beginning of the vigil, Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome took the microphone and prayed with the crowd for "an end to division." 

In the days following the shooting — and before Boyd's arrest warrant had been issued — Broome released a statement saying she was "very concerned about the incident" and asked Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul "to conduct a fair and transparent review of what happened."

Paul said at a community discussion Thursday evening at Broadmoor United Methodist Church that Boyd was a suspect from Day 1 but noted the investigative process takes time.

An attorney for Buckley's family spoke at the gathering as well, setting forth a list of demands. These included encouraging businesses in the shopping center where Buckley was killed to turn over their surveillance footage from the night of the shooting and asking the East Baton Rouge District Attorney to take Boyd's charge of second-degree murder to a grand jury immediately.

Organizers also recognized Trayford Pellerin, a 31-year-old Black man who was shot to death by Lafayette police officers last week. His family, who spoke at the vigil, said they want justice.

The night of the incident, Buckley approached Boyd's vehicle in the Trader Joe's parking lot to demand money from him, leading the two to argue through the car window, according to Boyd's arrest warrant. At some point, Buckley walked away and approached a young woman instead. 

But Boyd got out of his car and yelled at Buckley to "leave people alone because he was scaring them," according to the warrant. As Buckley turned back to Boyd and began to approach him, Boyd armed himself with a gun, pointed it at Buckley and tried to shoot him — but the weapon misfired. 

Although Buckley was "out of reach" and unarmed, Boyd lowered the gun and reloaded it, firing one shot into Buckley's abdomen, police say.

Boyd acknowledged shooting Buckley last Saturday evening after detectives contacted him at the scene, according the arrest warrant, but initially claimed self-defense.

One speaker, Walter "Geno" McLaughlin, referred to Buckley's death as a "lynching." He urged those gathered to take an active role in the political life of their community by voting and attending city council meetings.

"Being in the midst of an anti-racist movement globally, we know there are white supremacist forces that criminalize Black life, and Danny Buckley happened to be at the intersection of that," Saneei said. "He was a Black person who was deeply affected by certain policies and systems."

At the end of the vigil, the crowd lifted lit candles into the air, silently remembering all the families in mourning across the country. 


Email Jacqueline DeRobertis at jderobertis@theadvocate.com