Family of Black man killed by Lafayette police complain of information ‘kept under the rug’

Family demands State Police release 911 call and surveillance footage

The family of Trayford Pellerin, the 31-year-old Black man who was fatally shot 10 times by Lafayette police on Aug. 21, spoke to the public in a virtual town hall Thursday hosted by the ACLU of Louisiana. They shared new details about Pellerin’s mental health and the status of the family’s lawsuit against the city.

Trayford’s mother, Michelle Pellerin, said her son was a quiet person who suffered from an anxiety disorder that made him uncomfortable around crowds of people. She said he had recently been getting professional help for his anxiety.

In mid-2019, Trayford had moved in with his aunt, Choicey Pellerin, in El Paso, Texas. That aunt, who has been serving in the U.S. Army for 23 years, said Trayford had moved back to Lafayette not long before he was killed.

“I still hold the ‘what-ifs,’” she said. “What if he was still with me? That night my mom and I actually drove into the chaos that night, and I was like what if I had arrived 10 minutes earlier? What if he could’ve heard me call his name? What if the police officers had performed their duties in a humane way? Would I be sitting with you today?”

Pellerin was shot 10 times outside a Circle K gas station in Lafayette. Police said they were responding to a call about a man with a knife at a second convenience store. The officers followed him on foot for about a half-mile when they shot him outside the Circle K.

However, the family disputes some of the details and is calling for authorities to be transparent with some of the evidence. Trayford’s aunt said the initial 911 call never reported Trayford had a knife. The Louisiana State Police, which is conducting the investigation, has released very few details.

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“I think it’s important for the community, for the public, to see that the initial call, they need to hear that the initial call wasn’t about a knife,” Choicey Pellerin said. “They need to see that he held his hands up. They need to see that he walked and was followed for a half a mile. They need to see that they didn’t exhaust all resources of de-escalation.”

Attorney Ronald Haley, who is representing the family, said he has no faith in the LSP to conduct a fair and just investigation. Haley pointed to the case of Ronald Greene as an example. Greene was beaten to death by a state trooper following a vehicle pursuit. The LSP initially told Greene’s family that he died as a result of injuries sustained when his vehicle crashed.

“There will not be a settlement in this case until the full truth comes out,” Haley said. “Here in Louisiana we have no faith that the State Police is going to do the right thing. We can just look up to Union Parish and see one of our other cases involving Ronald Greene where they completely lied to the family and told them he died in a car accident when it was obviously something much more insidious. 

“Yet those are the folks that are in charge of investigating and coming with a truthful investigation of the Pellerin family’s plight in Trayford’s case?” Haley added. “Are we about to sit here and expect any other result from that? No, we’re not.”

The Pellerins said the LSP is fighting to keep the public from seeing video footage of the shooting.

“There’s just a lot of different things kept under the rug,” Cedrick Pellerin said. “It needs to be out in the open so everybody can see and everybody can make their own opinion”

Releasing the video footage from the officers’ body cameras and the storefront cameras would not compromise the investigation because it is objective evidence that cannot change, Haley said. The claim that releasing the footage might taint the investigation is “a load of crap,” he said.

“It should not only be released to the family, it should be released to the public,” Haley said. “Regardless of what side you’re on, whether it is pro-police, BLM or whatever other organization that you’re a part of or belief system that you have, everyone should be on the same page and should want the truth. Then let the chips fall where they may.”

 

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Wesley Muller
Wes Muller traces his journalism roots back to 1997 when, at age 13, he built and launched a hyper-local news website for his New Orleans neighborhood. In the following 22 years since then, he has worked as a journalist for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans, the Sun Herald in Biloxi, WAFB-9News CBS in Baton Rouge, and the Enterprise-Journal in McComb, Mississippi. Much of his work has involved reporting on First Amendment issues and watchdog coverage of municipal and state government. He has received several honors and recognitions, including McClatchy's National President's Award, the Associated Press Freedom of Information Award, and the Daniel M. Phillips Freedom of Information Award from the Mississippi Press Association, among others. Muller is a New Orleans native, a Jesuit High School alumnus, a University of New Orleans alumnus, a veteran U.S. Army paratrooper, and an adjunct English teacher at Baton Rouge Community College. He lives in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, with his teenage son and his wife, who is also a journalist.