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Lafayette Grand Jury: No indictments in Trayford Pellerin case

Trayford Pellerin
Posted at 2:00 PM, May 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-11 23:25:53-04

LAFAYETTE, La. — A Lafayette Parish grand jury declined to indict anyone Tuesday in the 2020 killing of Trayford Pellerin.

This means that no one will be prosecuted in the case, Lafayette District Attorney Don Landry said.

KATC has team coverage of the grand jury's decision, plus reaction from the Pellerin family and their attorney:

Landry said he wants Lafayette to learn lessons from the incident, including the "terrible and damaging power that illegal drugs cause in our community."

Landry said Pellerin had methamphetamine, THC and nicotine in his bloodstream the night of the shooting. During his press conference, he showed video from body cams and the stores where Pellerin was seen that night, and said those videos would all be released to the media.

Landry started his press conference at 3:30 p.m. He said the case was presented to the grand jury by prosecutors who did "an excellent job."

Landry's full presentation is included at the end of this story.

"The decision to prosecute must remain unencumbered by emotional or political agendas, especially in these troubled time in our country," Landry said.

Landry said his office did its own investigation after the Louisiana State Police investigation was complete. He said there is no dispute over the facts in the case, and that the only dispute is whether or not the shooting was justified.

He called Pellerin's shooting "a tragedy" that affected the entire community. He talked about people from out of town who came to fan the flames. He said people come to Acadiana for the food and the music and the weather.

Landry said the case has been a tragedy for law enforcement, because the officers involved have had "their entire career judged" by what happened. He then talked about when he was in the Marines.

"We train to deal with death in the Marine Corps, because it is a workplace reality in that profession that Marines will die," Landry said. "However, I never had a job like these officers have to keep this community safe."

He said officers run to the danger when there's a threat.

"The officers in this case responded to a dangerous situation," he said. "I think it is very clear that the officers in this matter have been severely impacted by the event took place."

Landry said he wanted to be sure that the incident was fully investigated, and that the safety of the community was ensured.

Landry showed video inside a store that Pellerin visited shortly before he went to the store where he was shot. He walks in the store and stands by the door, as the clerk talks to him. He walks back and forth in the store as the clerk asks where he's from and if he's all right.

Most of the people in the store are wearing masks, but Pellerin is not. Occasionally, Pellerin looks out the window, as if he's looking for someone. He appears to be smiling. When someone approaches the door, he steps back to allow them to pass.

At one point, he appears to gesture to someone else in the store, and then leaves. He then comes back in, gets a drink and again waits by the door.

He then calls out a woman's name.

The clerk says she went outside. He says that, no, she was in the bathroom. And then he heads back to the bathrooms. The clerk tells him he can't go back there. He then leaves again.

Landry says Pellerin had a knife in his hand when he left. It is difficult to see, but if it is a knife it appears to be a paring knife, three to four inches long.

DA evidence - Trayford Pellerin - exit store with knife.jpg
Trayford Pellerin is seen on surveillance footage from Aug. 20, 2020 exiting a convenience store on the Evangeline Thruway in Lafayette with what appears to be a knife in his hand.

The clerk calls police and says her customers are "terrified" because Pellerin keeps "hollering and throwing things." Pellerin can be seen throwing a cup of water outside the front door when he leaves the second time.

He opens the door while the clerk is on the phone with police and yells at her, saying he knows the woman is in there and she'll face a kidnapping charge.

Another 911 call is played, from a woman who says she saw a man with a knife outside the store. The dispatcher asks if he's fighting with someone, and the caller says no. The dispatcher asks if he was threatening anyone, and the caller says that he didn't and just put the knife back into his pack and started walking way.

While the caller is on the phone, an officer arrives.

Body cam from that officer then is played. He spots Pellerin in the middle of the thruway, and yells at him to come over to the police unit because "you're going to get run over." Pellerin appears to hear him, but continues to walk away.

DA Evidence - Trayford Pellerin - police fire taser.jpg
Body cam footage shows a responding officer with the Lafayette Police Department fire a taser at Trayford Pellerin on the Evangeline Thruway on Aug. 20, 2020.

The officer chases him on the shoulder on foot, and tries to shoot Pellerin with the taser. He continually tells Pellerin to get on the ground, as traffic passes on the thruway - including several 18-wheelers. It's dusk and the vehicles have their lights on.

Other officers respond, and can be seen blocking traffic as Pellerin runs across the thruway. The officer continues to chase him down the thruway, yelling at him to stop and get on the ground.

He continues to walk toward a second store, as the first officer yells that the "taser won't work." As he reaches for the door, multiple officers fire on Pellerin, and his body falls down to the ground.

Landry said the taser prongs "probably" hit Pellerin's satchel instead of his body. He says that Pellerin turned on the officer with the knife in his hand, but the officer didn't shoot him then - even though the officer would have been justified in shooting Pellerin then.

Another officer's body cam footage is then shown. Landry said the officers could not let Pellerin go into the store where he could hurt someone or "take a hostage." This second officer is heard telling Pellerin to drop the knife multiple times. One police car pulls within inches of Pellerin as he walks to the second store, trying to stop him. He taps the hood of the vehicle, and keeps walking.

DA evidence - Trayford Pellerin - knife.jpg
The Lafayette District Attorney says that this is the knife that Trayford Pellerin had when he was shot by Lafayette Police Officers on Aug. 20, 2020.

"Trayford Pellerin could have dropped the knife, and he would have lived," Landry said.

Landry says a K-9 officer was there on the thruway and at the store, but there were too many people in close proximity and no chance to use the dog to incapacitate Pellerin at the site of the shooting.

"These officers went above and beyond the requirements of the use of deadly force in this case," he said.

Officers were cognizant of the many bystanders and tried to keep everyone safe, he said. The officers repeatedly told him to drop the knife, get down on the ground and stop, he said. The body cam audio was enhanced by the FBI so that what was said could be clearly heard, Landry said.

To see the story about Haley's presser, click here.

Lafayette NAACP released the following statement Tuesday night:

We thank the District Attoney Don Landry for coming back to the community to reveal some of the information presented to the Grand Jury in secret. Unfortunately it does not bring young Trayford Pellerin back from death at the hands of LPD officers, who cannot seem to find a way to serve and protect.

The video was enlightening in that Trayford Pellerin came within 2 feet of many people who he did not harm nor did they feel threat to life.

At this time we want to continue our support for the family. We take issue with the repeated comments by the District Attorney, that the shooting was justified based on the training of the officer. This leads us to question the underlying principles of the training provided to police officers in America. We need transformative justice policies that values life, even a detainee's life. We believe justice is coming no matter what.

Michael Toussaint,
Vice President
Chair Police Community Relations Committee

Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory's office sent out a statement following Landry's press conference.

“Earlier today, District Attorney Don Landry convened a grand jury related to the shooting of Trayford Pellerin in late August 2020. The grand jury has returned a “no true bill,” resulting in no indictments against the officers involved. The grand jury’s finding that criminal charges against the officers are not warranted does not change the fact that a family has lost a son and the community continues to grieve.

We know that the Pellerin family and the community still have questions about the case. We have remained steadfast in our stance to allow the criminal investigation by the Louisiana State Police and the grand jury proceedings by the DA’s office to move forward as intended without any interference. This was intended to not impede or prejudice a fair process due to all parties involved.

Mayor-President Josh Guillory has always expressed his intention to release the body camera footage to the family and the public. Nothing has changed in that regard. Despite our desire to be transparent and share the video from officers’ body cameras that was in our possession, the fact remained that this information was evidence in an ongoing investigation.

The criminal proceedings and grand jury have concluded.

Thus, in keeping with the Mayor President’s stated wishes, and to provide transparency and more clarity for members of the community, the body camera footage from responding officers on the night of the incident, as well as the 911 calls made by civilians can now be released.

The release of the video will be on a rolling basis in accordance with the Louisiana Public Records Act.”

Pellerin was fatally shot by Lafayette Police officers on Aug. 21, 2020 after, police allege, he attempted to enter an occupied convenience store along the NW Evangeline Thruway while armed with a knife.

A cellphone video taken of Pellerin as he was walking up to the convenience store went viral and led to mass protests across Lafayette.

The parents of Trayford Pellerin filed a civil lawsuit in Federal Court against Lafayette Consolidated Government and the Lafayette Police Department in October 2020. A hearing for that case is still pending.

Last month, Louisiana State Police completed their investigation of the shooting and turned their file over to the 15th Judicial District Attorney's Office. A week later, Pellerin's family met with the DA to discuss the LSP ruling that the shooting was justified.

Recently, Pellerin's father told us the family does not believe Trayford had a knife.

“We need justice, transparency, accountability, because anyone who’s seen the video could know it is blatant murder,” said Pellerin. “It's overkill as well."

“Their justification was that he had a knife and he was going to enter this convenience store,” said Pellerin.

Police also claimed that they tried to use a taser repeatedly to stop Trayford, but his family provided us with copies of a preliminary autopsy report that found no evidence he was ever hit with a taser.

Although the family has been shown footage from one body cam that was running the night of the shooting, none have ever been released to the public.

After meeting with the DA following the State Police determination, Haley said that the family was frustrated, and that the community should be, too.

"The frustration should be with the policy within the police department to not release information to the public as it pertains to a wrongful death of it's citizen, which has been done here," Haley said.

Landry's full presentation: