On Saturday night, protesters blocked traffic as they gathered on Moss Street in Lafayette near a police precinct to protest Pellerin’s death, CNN affiliate KATC reported.
Police in riot gear gave a 10-minute warning before releasing flares and smoke canisters into the crowd of protesters, KATC reported.
Afterward, Interim Lafayette Police Chief Scott Morgan drew a distinction between protesters who organized an event earlier in the day and those who he said “choose to be malicious.” He said people blocked important roadways and started several fires in a grass area, and police observed some throwing fireworks into one of their buildings.
“Our intent is not going to be to just let people disrupt our town and put our citizens and our motorists and our neighborhood in danger. We’re going to use those resources that we have and those other agencies and we’re going to enforce these laws,” he said.
The protests came after the ACLU of Louisiana called for an independent investigation into Pellerin’s death, which they said was captured on video. CNN is working to obtain and verify the video.
“Once again, video footage has captured a horrific and deadly incident of police violence against a Black person who was brutally killed in front of our eyes,” Alanah Odoms Hebert, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana, said in a statement.
Hebert said the shooting was an “inappropriate and excessive use of force” by the police.
“None of our communities are safe when the police can murder people with impunity or when routine encounters escalate into deadly shooting sprees,” Hebert said. “The ACLU of Louisiana will continue to demand justice for this brutal killing and push for reforms that will end the epidemic of police violence once and for all.”
Pellerin’s death comes near the end of a summer that has seen widespread protests and outrage over racial injustice and police brutality following the police killings of Black people including George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky.
Police say Trayford Pellerin had a knife
Saturday night’s events came a day after Lafayette Police officers were called to a convenience store shortly after 8 p.m. Friday to respond to a “disturbance involving a person armed with a knife,” according to a statement from the Louisiana State Police.
There, police found Pellerin in the store’s parking lot with a knife, the statement says. When officers tried to apprehend him, Pellerin left and officers followed on foot. The police used Tasers as they pursued him, the statement says, “but they were ineffective.”
The officers shot Pellerin as he tried to enter a convenience store along NW Evangeline Thruway, according to Louisiana State Police. Pellerin was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.
State police said no officers were injured and that the investigation is “active and ongoing.” No further information was available.
Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump said in a statement sent to CNN that he was among the lawyers representing Pellerin’s family. Crump called for the officers involved to be fired.
“We refuse to let this case resolve like so many others: quietly and without answers and justice,” said Crump, who also represents the families of Floyd and Taylor.
“The family, and the people of Lafayette, deserve honesty and accountability from those who are sworn to protect them — the Lafayette police,” he added.
After Saturday’s clashes, Lafayette Parish Sheriff Mark Garber issued a stern warning to “out-of-town agitators,” a trope sometimes used to try to undermine protest movements.
“If any out-of-town agitators are watching this, if anyone’s planning to enhance their techniques tomorrow or the next day, we are ready for you,” he said. “We are prepared. We will not willingly give up the city. You will have to go through every resource that I have and every resource that the police have in order to do harm to the citizens or to their property.”
Local community organizers also warned against “bad actors” coming to the city.
“If you’re one of these bad actors that comes in and sets fires and throws rocks and pops firecrackers, you’re not welcome here in Lafayette,” said activist Jamal Taylor. “That’s not the stuff that we’re doing.”