11 Shots Were Fired by 6 Officers at 1 Black Man Holding a Knife

On Friday night, 31-year-old Trayford Pellerin was shot to death by officers in Lafayette, Louisiana. The half a dozen officers fired on Pellerin 11 times, who died later at a local hospital.

Why the officers shot at Pellerin so many times and why they didn’t take more steps to de-escalate the situation is unknown. The information we do know about the police shooting comes from the officers themselves, eyewitness reports, and a video filmed by Rickasha Montgomery, a witness of the death.

The incident began when Lafayette officers responded to a disturbance call on Friday night around 8 PM. They were told than an individual was armed with a knife in the parking lot of a Circle K. That individual was Pellerin.

The officers tried to apprehend him, using tasers, but he left the scene. They continued to pursue him on foot while he walked a half mile to a Shell gas station. Outside the Shell, the six officers pulled guns on Pellerin and yelled for him to get on the ground. When he ignored them and attempted to enter the Shell the police officers shot him.

Montgomery, whose video of the shooting has been widely circulated on social media, said that she saw the officer’s fire stun weapons at Pellerin but he just kept walking away from the police. She confirmed that she did spot a knife in his hand. She heard the 11 gunshots and saw Pellerin fall to the ground, immobile, after they were fired.

Pellerin’s family has hired Civil Rights attorney Ben Crump, who also represented the family of George Floyd, to seek justice. Crump commented, “We stand with Trayford’s family in demanding justice and transparency into the reckless shooting and tragic killing of this man…We refuse to let this case resolve like so many others: quietly and without answers and justice.”

Michelle Pellerin, the mother of Trayford Pellerin, commented to the Acadiana Advocate that, “I’m still trying to understand what happened. Why did it have to go this far? Why him? Everybody talks about the video, but I haven’t seen it and I don’t want to see it. I can’t.”

She described Trayford as “a kind, intelligent, quiet and shy man who loved to cook, was close with his extended family and was caring and helpful.” He suffered from some social anxiety as a result of being in groups of people, so she thinks that the group of officer’s coming after him could have scared him. Ben Crump commented that the family believes Pellerin may have been experiencing a mental health crisis before being shot.

If the situation was a result of a mental health breakdown then this tragic incident is yet another example of why funding should be redirected from police departments to individuals who are actually capable of working with people suffering from mental health issues. The lack of de-escalation, apart from trying to taser Trayford, reveals the police officer’s incompetence and helplessness in regard to working with individuals with mental health problems.

Louisiana State Police are investigating the shooting. The officers who were involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave with pay until an investigation is complete. This is the third incident in which an on-duty Lafayette Police Officer has shot someone in 5 weeks. That extremely high number reveals that something is rotten at the core of the Lafayette Police Department, which dissuades hope that the situation will be correctly handled and the officers will receive appropriate justice.

Marja Broussard, the President of the local NAACP chapter told the Daily Advertiser that the police could have done more to diffuse the situation. “How much time did they have to diffuse it?…How much time did they have to do something other than freaking shoot?” she said. “I think that so much more could have been done.”

On Saturday hundreds of people gathered in Lafayette to protest the shooting. They came together at the Shell gas station where Pellerin was shot. Chanting “No justice, no peace” they walked down the Evangeline Thuway.

The protest culminated when about 150 marchers locked arms and chanted “Tray,” blocking traffic. The demonstration was almost completely peaceful, although officers reported that the protestors set off fireworks, threw rocks and water bottles at police cars, and tried to start fires. Of course, those microaggressions in no way compare in severity to the act of shooting at an individual 11 times, who was only armed with a knife and had not displayed any violent behavior.

While the protestors were holding their vigil for Trayford Pellerin on the Evangeline Thruway officers showed up in riot gear and demanded that the clear the road. They threatened the protesters that if they didn’t disperse they would face arrest.

Several dozen protestors remained and refused to leave, continuing to peacefully demonstrate. The officers responded by throwing smoke grenades and using flash bang explosives. The group scattered, and a few protestors were taken into police custody. How many were arrested is still unknown.

Clearly, there should not have been a shooting in Lafayette on Friday night. The situation escalated to a degree that it did not need to, and now someone’s son is dead. The Lafayette Police Department and specifically the officers involved need to recognize that their error resulted in a murder, and they need to take responsibility for that and subject themselves to the justice system they undermined by appointing their officers judge, jury, and executioner-again.



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