PROTESTS and vigils took place in Louisiana this weekend after a black man was shot dead in a “horrific and deadly incident of police violence” on Friday night.
Police in the city of Lafayette insisted that Trayford Pellerin, 31, had a knife and was trying to enter a shop when he was approached by officers. They said that stun guns had failed to incapacitate him, so they opened fire.
Mr Pellerin’s mother said that her son was intelligent and shy. He had sought therapy for social anxiety and it was thought that he may have been having a mental-health crisis before he was killed.
“Instead of giving him a helping hand they gave him bullets,” civil-rights lawyer Ben Crump said.
Mr Crump, who is carrying out investigations with attorney Ronald Haley, has been told by some witnesses that Pellerin was unarmed.
Demonstrations on Saturday demanded justice, and community activists said they would present their frustrations to city officials.
Police fired tear gas to disperse the protesters, and Interim police chief Scott Morgan said he was not prepared to let them “disrupt our town and put our citizens and our motorists and our neighbourhoods in danger.”
Lafayette police asked state officials to investigate — standard procedure for shootings by local officers.
Southern Poverty Law Centre president Margaret Huang said: “Lafayette police shot Mr Pellerin several times as he walked away from them.
“His killing demands an analysis of the excessive use of force by law enforcement. We fully support movement leaders’ calls for a swift and transparent investigation into Mr Pellerin’s killing.”
And American Civil Liberties Union spokeswoman Alanah Odoms Herbert said: “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.”
“Trayford Pellerin should be alive today. Instead, a family is mourning and a community is grieving,” her statement said. “None of our communities are safe when the police can murder people with impunity or when routine encounters escalate into deadly shooting sprees.”
Mr Crump said that the officers involved should be fired immediately for their “abhorrent and fatal actions.”
Mr Haley said he was working with Mr Crump in seeking reforms and confirmed that the family was suing Lafayette police.
“We want policy changes as well so that [Mr Crump] and I are not in the living room with another family in Lafayette dealing with this,” he said.
Global protests against systemic racism were sparked in May by the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who was killed after Minneapolis police officers knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes.
The Black Lives Matter movement has called for the defunding of US police forces, with several states voting in favour of reallocating resources from law enforcement to social projects.