A year later: Trayford Pellerin's death brought national reckoning to Lafayette
In the year since Trayford Pellerin was shot and killed by three Lafayette Police officers, the city has weathered its own version of the national reckoning over police violence.
The 31-year-old Black man was killed on Aug. 21, 2020, by officers responding to a disturbance involving a man with a knife at a North Lafayette gas station.
Officers followed Pellerin, who was holding a folding pocket knife, on foot across traffic to a convenience store, where they fatally shot him to prevent him from going inside.
Louisiana State Police:Read its report on Lafayette Police fatal shooting of Trayford Pellerin
Eight months after the shooting, a Lafayette grand jury declined to charge the three officers who shot Pellerin — Sr. Cpl. Tyler Howerton, Officer. Malik Savoy, and Officer. Kevin McFarlain — with second-degree murder. Lesser charges weren't considered.
Louisiana State Police ruled the shooting a justifiable homicide.
A national moment
Pellerin's death came about three months after George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, was killed by a Minneapolis Police officer, who has since been charged in Floyd's death. Floyd's killing sparked protests and rallies around the nation and in Lafayette.
Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory attended the rally and said he was proud to see the "peaceful message" put out by the protesters and organizers.
“Let this demonstration echo throughout the world that Lafayette does not condone police brutality and neither does this country,” Guillory said at the time.
Pellerin's death also sparked days of protests in Lafayette, with demonstrators calling for transparency in the investigation and the firing of the officers involved. Marchers at times blocked traffic on major thoroughfares and have protested at city hall, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and the federal courthouse downtown.
Pellerin’s death also spurred the dedication of $1 million in city funds for greater training for the city’s police, close to $760,000 of which has been either spent or earmarked to make the department “one of the best trained, if not the best trained, in United States,” Chief Thomas Glover Sr. told the city council in May.
That training is focused on five key areas — de-escalation, use of force, protection of property, managing critical incidents and responding to mental health crises — Glover said.
Glover, who became the first Black police chief to permanently lead the department in December when he was appointed by Guillory, also has asked for more patrol officers.
A local reckoning
Glover has taken a hard-line approach to disciplining officers who violate the department's use-of-force policy. He has fired at least two officers who were accused of attacking people who were handcuffed.
Story continues below video
Local protests following shooting:Lafayette leaders condemn non-peaceful protests: 'We will not willingly give up this city'
Former Officer Pablo Estrada, the first officer on the scene the night Pellerin was killed, was fired in February after an incident at the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center. Estrada, who did not fire at Pellerin that night, pushed and punched a handcuffed man at the jail in November, though he is appealing his termination.
Another officer, Alex Ritter, was fired in April, the same day he was arrested on malfeasance in office and simple battery charges. Glover launched an internal investigation into Ritter after he learned of a violent incident involving the former officer and someone he had arrested.
Ritter also is appealing his termination to the Lafayette Fire and Police Civil Service Board. He has pleaded not guilty to his charges.
Pursuit of justice
But Pellerin's parents, Michelle and Cedrick Pellerin, are still fighting for justice in federal court, as their attorney Ron Haley said when they filed suit. The family filed the lawsuit in October asking for a jury trial to award damages from the Lafayette Police Department and 10 officers for their involvement in Pellerin's death.
The family did not set a dollar amount they are seeking.
After the shooting:Mayor says 'I recognize the pain' the killing of Black man caused
"We don’t have an asking price," Haley said at the time. "To me, there is no price for somebody’s life."
The federal lawsuit was put on hold while a grand jury considered charges for the three officers. Federal Magistrate Judge Carol B. Whitehurst ruled this week that the lawsuit could move forward again.