Peaceful vigil for Lafayette police shooting victim becomes clash between marchers, police

Ashley White and Alyssa Berry
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

A protest that began peacefully Saturday came to a forced end as Lafayette Parish deputies blasted smoke and flash bang explosives at marchers who blocked Evangeline Thruway following a vigil for a Black man killed by Lafayette police.

About 150 people blocked traffic on Evangeline Thruway, a main roadway into the city, chanting "Tray" to honor the victim as they locked arms.

At first, police stopped southbound traffic along Evangeline Thruway near the north Lafayette intersection at Willow Street as the marchers gathered. 

Marchers then went back to the site where Lafayette police killed 31-year-old Trayford Pellerin, blocking northbound traffic out of the city along the multi-lane road near the Shell gas station on the corner of Chalmette Drive and North Frontage Road.

Officers in riot gear, including shields and gas masks, later gathered just before 8:30 p.m. Saturday, confronting the marchers at Moss and West Pine streets and ordering them to clear the road. They fired smoke and flash bang explosives at the crowd, forcing them to run.

The march came after more than 200 people gathered at the gas station for a vigil calling for justice and accountability in the shooting. 

Pellerin, a Black man, died after being shot Friday night by at least one Lafayette Police Department officer near the entrance of the gas station.

Some NAACP leaders urged the crowd not to block the roadway after the vigil. State NAACP President Mike McClanahan told some in the crowd that people “can march till your shoes fall off,” but what makes a difference is voting out elected officials who don’t embrace racial justice.

Marchers blocked the southbound lanes of Evangeline Thruway after a Saturday vigil for a Black man killed by Lafayette police.

Many in the crowd continued on their march, blocking traffic from traveling southbound on Evangeline into Lafayette. As they gathered at the intersection of Willow Street, they locked arms with police looking on and chanted "Tray."

After about an hour at the intersection, the crowd marched back to the Shell station and later were met by sheriff's deputies in riot gear.

The community vigil Saturday evening featured speakers demanding accountability for the officers involved in his death, with some people holding signs calling to defund the police and others urging the firing of officers responsible for his killing.

Protestors march down Evangeline Thruway in North Lafayette during a demonstration on Saturday, Aug. 22, for Trayford Pellerin, who was shot and killed by Lafayette police Friday night.

Choicey Pellerin, Pellerin's aunt, told those attending the vigil that her family is reeling from his death. She called for witnesses to come forward with their accounts of the shooting.

"My family is hurting. When will it ever stop? We need answers. They had alternative means. Why didn’t they take them? What caused it? Nobody knows what happened." Choicey Pellerin said.

"I’m asking if anybody knows what happened, please have the personal courage to come up and share what you know. We cannot move forward together as one if we shy away from putting up the truth," she said.

Local NAACP leaders and other community activists demanded justice in the wake of Pellerin's death, as did civil rights attorneys hired by Pellerin's family to represent them during the investigation.

"Normally I speak before people asking for transparency and accountability, but today I’m only asking for accountability. You know why? Because it was transparent what happened yesterday," said Ron Haley, a lawyer for the family.

"It’s transparent that someone was killed. No justification. It was a murder that took place at this Shell station. So we don’t need to be transparent. What we need is accountability."

Police approached Pellerin while responding to a disturbance call Friday night and later tased him, according to Louisiana State Police. The agency took over the investigation at the request of Lafayette police because it was an officer-involved shooting.

Lafayette police officers continued to pursue Pellerin after he was tasered as he walked away from them. He was shot as he approached a convenience store followed by a group of about six officers.

A video circulating on social media features a burst of gunfire, including 11 rounds fired, before the Black man surrounded by officers falls limp to the ground near the entrance of the Shell station.

In contrast to Friday’s initial response when public officials and community leaders gathered at the scene, Saturday’s vigil saw no elected officials. Those gathered for the vigil questioned why Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory was not in attendance, while he visited the crime scene Friday night.

Louisiana State Police said Saturday Pellerin was carrying a knife when confronted by police. 

Pellerin's death marks the third time Lafayette police have shot a person in the past five weeks, all of which have been on the city's majority-Black north side.

Contact Ashley White at or on Twitter @AshleyyDi