The cell phone video is jumpy and dark, but the scene is tragically familiar. When Lafayette police gunned down Trayford Pellerin outside a convenience store on August 21st, cell phone video of the incident went viral. The video shows a phalanx of Lafayette police approaching Pellerin, who is backing away. A volley of gunfire rings out and Pellerin falls to the ground. 

There is still more to know about what happened that night. But this much is clear: Like Jacob Blake, Trayford Pellerin was clearly moving away from the police.  They shot and killed him anyway. Pellerin got neither trial nor jury. He was nevertheless sentenced to death by officers who were sworn to protect and serve him. 

Pellerin’s brutal killing by police is yet another reminder of the deadly toll police violence continues to take on Black communities. There are undoubtedly two systems of justice in America. Black men like Trayford Pellerin get shot in the back for minor offenses or perceived threats. All the while, white extremists like Kyle Rittenhouse are allowed to walk down the street with long guns undeterred. When Rittenhouse—a confirmed killer—was approached by police, he was taken into custody without incident. Not a single gunshot was fired.

The larger question that looms is: what happens when the cameras are off, and there’s no one there to record the incident? Too often, the answer is nothing. In Jefferson Parish, the police shooting of a teenager went unreported for months. A recent ACLU report found that police shootings in Louisiana have continued unabated, despite a global pandemic that has reduced travel and activity.

None of our communities are safe when the police can murder people with impunity or when routine encounters escalate into deadly shooting sprees. That is why the ACLU of Louisiana will continue to demand justice for the brutal killing of Trayford Pellerin and push for reforms that will end the epidemic of police violence once and for all.

All of us can and must do more to end the bloodshed perpetrated by police and transform the role of police in our communities. 

Our new initiative, Justice Lab, aims to create a partnership among directly-impacted people, communities, private law firms, and legal clinics to challenge racially discriminatory policing practices in Louisiana. By directly representing, advocating for, and sharing the first-hand narratives of directly impacted people and their families, Justice Lab seeks to empower the community in taking on this fight.

If you or anyone you know experienced racist policing – whether it was a traffic stop, illegal search, fill out our intake form and tell us your story.