Video: Black Lives Matter protests come to Cajun country

Just as Kenosha, Wisconsin was not expected to be the scene of Black Lives Matter protests, the same can be said for Lafayette, Louisiana. Yet, the protests have come to Cajun country. Lafayette is the center of Acadiana.

For those not familiar, Lafayette is the parish seat of Lafayette Parish, Louisiana, located along the Vermilion River in the southwestern part of the state. It is the state’s fourth-largest city, with a population of about 126,185. It’s a family-friendly city. I know this from personal experience. Currently, the city is experiencing the same kind of civil unrest that others are experiencing after police shot a black man. And a familiar name has popped up, too. Attorney Ben Crump is involved with the family of the black man. Crump’s name has often popped up since the death of George Floyd.

Trayford Pellerin was a 31-year-old black man who was shot eleven times by Lafayette police after he led them on a chase from one gas station to another. Lafayette police responded to a disturbance involving a person armed with a knife at a local gas station. When officers arrived, they found Pellerin in the parking lot. They tried to apprehend him but Pellerin fled on foot. Police pursued him for about a half a mile to another gas station. At the second gas station, as Pellerin attempted to enter it, police shot him at the door. He was taken to a hospital where he died.

At least one officer fired his gun. The officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave with pay as an investigation is underway. There is video from the scene taken by a witness. It shows several officers surrounding Pellerin, shots fired, and then Pellerin falls to the ground.

Warning: Graphic language and images.

According to the Louisiana State Police, the agency investigating the shooting, Lafayette officers tased Pellerin and continued to pursue him for nearly half a mile as he walked away from them. As a group of about six officers closed in on him when he approached the entrance to a gas station store, Pellerin was shot multiple times. Officers said he was carrying a knife.

“A son was taken,” said Ron Hanley, a lawyer representing the Pellerin family. “A brother was taken, a cousin, a nephew.”

Pellerin has a record of drug violations and served time in state prison for felony drug and firearm possession.

There has been a series of protests since the shooting occurred on August 21. The witness who filmed the shooting said it appeared Pellerin had a knife and was walking away from the police. Pellerin ignored their order for Pellerin to “get on the ground”.

Rickasha Montgomery, a witness who filmed a video of the police shooting of the suspect, said she saw what appeared to be a knife in the man’s hand. She said officers tased him, but he kept walking down Evangeline Thruway away from police.

She saw about six officers with guns pulled out, she said. Officers yelled for the man to get on the ground, the 18-year-old Montgomery said. But when the man reached the door of the Shell gas station, officers shot him.

Attorney Ben Crump says the family believes Pellerin may have been experiencing mental health problems. Crump demands that the police officers involved be fired “immediately”, because apparently police officers are no longer entitled to due process or believed innocent until proven guilty.

Ben Crump, a civil rights lawyer hired to represent Pellerin’s family during the investigation into the shooting, said relatives believe Pellerin’s final moments were marked by a mental health crisis.

“His family believes that he was suffering a mental illness crisis and what he needed was a helping hand. But what he got was what looks like 11 bullets,” Crump said.

Crump called for the officers involved in the shooting, who have been placed on paid administrative leave, to be fired immediately.

Unlike some other cities top officials, Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory defended Pellerin’s shooting. Guillory said Pellering was “threatening” after police confronted him. He continued to walk away from them even after he was tasered. Guillory praised officers in a statement.

“Our hearts and prayers are with our community tonight, and with the men and women in uniform who put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe,” he said.

Guillory did not publically offer condolences for the Pellerin family.

With Ben Crump involved as an attorney for the family, I’m a little surprised that this story hasn’t been all over cable news. Maybe I’ve just missed it.

The family has retained Civil Rights attorney Ben Crump. Crump, who is based in Tallahassee, Florida, has represented the families of other Black men who have been killed by police, including George Floyd. He also represented the family of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old Black teen who was fatally shot by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in 2012.

“We stand with Trayford’s family in demanding justice and transparency into the reckless shooting and tragic killing of this man,” Crump said in a statement Saturday. “We refuse to let this case resolve like so many others: quietly and without answers and justice.”

During this period of unrest, Hurricane Laura happened. The hurricane destroyed parts of coastal Louisiana (and parts of Texas) which is putting Lafayette in a tough spot as the city tries to handle hurricane evacuees. Lafayette is a regular place for those further toward the coast to evacuate to when hurricanes force evacuations. A top aide to Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory, Cydra Wingerter, Guillory’s chief administrative officer, is urging nonprofits not to offer shelter to evacuees. She cites “a serious threat” from recent protests. She also points to the problems coming from outside agitators coming in from out of town, including armed protesters. It sounds harsh but with coronavirus concerns still out there and now the potential for violent protests and bad actors coming in town, you can see how a city official would sound the alarm to those trying to offer shelter to evacuees. There are personal safety issues involved, as well as liability issues, I would think. Wingerter addressed the concerns in an email. Mayor-President Guillory issued a proclamation limiting public gatherings after weekend protests. Wingerter asked that non-profit agencies “take a pause on any action to establish shelters at this time,” because of the continued protests. “This is a serious threat and we must handle this issue before we can care for our neighbors,” she wrote.

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette issued a statement in support of peaceful protesters but warned against demonstrators bringing firearms to the campus.

But the university condemned demonstrators who brought firearms to the campus during the protest, saying at least one had violated state laws that prohibit guns on campus. The university statement cited its “unwavering priority — and that’s to ensure the health and safety of every member of its campus community.”

Marchers left UL on Saturday to return to the statue of Confederate Gen. Alfred Mouton, where at least two people openly carried firearms. They said they were there to protect the demonstrators’ right to protest.

Just peaceful protesters, right? Sure, they are peaceful until they aren’t. Black Lives Matter is across the country and supporting protests in cities large and small now. We know the people who are behind this political movement. Cities across the country should prepare accordingly.