The gist: A raw, two-hour meeting between Josh Guillory and the family of Trayford Pellerin yielded a cautiously improved rapport and a commitment from the mayor-president to show the family body cam footage documenting Pellerin’s killing by Lafayette police. The conciliatory meeting, coming two weeks after the 31-year-old Black man’s death, sketched a framework for longer term progress on race and policing in Lafayette.
Allowing the family to see the video would help bring clarity and closure to a publicly volatile situation. Through their attorney, Ronald Haley, the family commended Guillory’s efforts at reconciliation. The family has consistently called for more transparency from the administration and investigators, a push that has been echoed and amplified by protestors for weeks. Haley applauded the mayor-president’s contrition, accepting it as sincere, but promised to hold Guillory to his word on several commitments, such that the “olive branch” extended would bear fruit.
“The family got more out of the meeting than they anticipated they were going to get,” Pellerin attorney Ronald Haley told reporters minutes after the meeting. “We have to continue to hold the mayor’s feet to the fire,” Haley said. Guillory accepted an invitation to Pellerin’s funeral this Thursday.
Guillory’s spokesman says the mayor-president is “hell-bent” on following through. Chief Communications Officer Jamie Angelle tells The Current the administration does not anticipate any roadblocks in showing the family the footage. Should any appear, he says, the public will hear about it from an outraged Guillory.
A lack of clarity has pulled the story of Pellerin’s death in contrasting directions. Relying on grainy footage from bystanders, locals have seized on unconfirmed details to peg his death as a tragic but justifiable precaution or yet another example of racist and deadly police violence. Outside of investigators, no one has seen exactly what happened to Pellerin, and speculation and anger have run rampant in the vacuum. Haley released the findings of an independent autopsy report this week, challenging the official narrative offered by the administration and state police, which is investigating the shooting, since shortly after Pellerin’s death. Reports by local media seized on details suggesting Pellerin wasn’t tased, which would contradict official reports from the scene and some accounts from bystanders.
Video evidence could shed light on the steps police took to avoid killing Pellerin. Initial statements from the mayor-president, who told Pellerin’s family he had not seen the body cam footage himself, backed the police account of the shooting, claiming police took steps — such as firing tasers — to de-escalate the encounter. The family and social justice activists have contested that narrative, saying it fails common sense. Officers hit Pellerin 10 times in a flurry of gun fire that shattered glass on the door of the convenience store he was trying to enter and then handcuffed him, Haley contends, citing the autopsy report paid for by the Pellerin family. The Pellerin autopsy found no taser markings, but was ultimately inconclusive about whether tasers were used. State police declined to release to The Current the findings of the autopsy produced in their investigation.
Earlier Friday, Haley rebuked “two weeks of silence” from authorities involved in the Pellerin case. At a press conference called by the local NAACP chapter, Haley challenged elected officials to pressure state police, who are investigating the shooting, to release the body cam footage, security video from the gas station where Pellerin was shot and the 911 call that brought police to the scene.
“The longer they wait, the harder it’s going to be for each side to digest what the truth is,” Haley said at the Friday morning press conference, saying his efforts were neither “anti police” nor “pro social justice” but fixed doggedly on achieving transparency.
LPD turned the case over to Louisiana State Police. That’s standard procedure for shootings involving officers in Lafayette and other jurisdictions in the state. At the Friday morning press conference before the Pellerin family met with Guillory, NAACP representatives criticized the arrangement, saying it was being used to shield local law enforcement from transparency. NAACP reps further called for police reform and for the district attorney to prosecute the officers who shot Pellerin.
Guillory further promised to explore deeper improvements in LPD. Described by Haley as an agreement in principle, Guillory’s commitments set short, intermediate and long-term goals for repairing local law enforcement’s relationship with the Black community. Here, Haley again credited a new face for Guillory, whom he earlier criticized as a mayor of two cities, one white and one Black.
“The mayor we saw in that meeting was not a mayor of two cities, but a mayor of one city,” Haley said.