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Lafayette grand jury declines to indict officers in Trayford Pellerin killing

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In a press conference, 15th Judicial District Attorney Don Landry shared the results of investigations into the police-involved shooting of Trayford Pellerin on August 21, 2020.

A grand jury declined to charge any of the officers involved in Pellerin’s death.

The information he presented came not only from his own office’s investigation, but an independent one conducted by Louisiana State Police. In both, Landry said investigators felt the officers were justified in shooting Pellerin based on their training.

Pellerin entered a Circle K on the Evangeline Thruway at around 7:37 p.m. wearing a satchel. For several minutes, he wandered around the store without shopping or interacting with other customers. He remains calm for several minutes, but begins to act erratically, searching for a person in the restrooms. Pellerin eventually left the store with a knife drawn in his left hand, apparently taken from the satchel.

Immediately after, a bystander called 911 — the third such call related to Pellerin’s behavior that night. According to the audio of that call, Pellerin threw his drink at a nearby person’s car while his knife was drawn but did not harm anyone. By 8 p.m. the police were on the scene.

Video from multiple police bodycams showed officers with Tasers drawn, chasing Pellerin across both lanes of the Evangeline Thruway into heavy traffic. On at least two occasions, officers fired their Tasers at Pellerin. One officer missed due to firing at amoving target, while another hit Pellerin with only one of the two prongs of the Taser. Landry explained that both prongs of the Taser must hit a person in order for the Taser to shock the suspect. Landry said officials believe the second prong was blocked by Pellerin’s satchel.

Pellerin responded by saying a Taser would not work on him. He also responded to at least one officer by threatening to stab him and swinging his weapon.

Pellerin was also seen walking alongside a pickup truck along the service road and addressing the motorists within the vehicle while police had their weapons drawn on him. Landry said Pellerin opened the door of the vehicle and talked to a child inside. Landry called it a “potential carjacking.” No one was harmed.

Pellerin continued down the service road to a nearby Shell station. Police attempted to block Pellerin with vehicles, which he walked around. A K-9 officer was on the scene, though Landry said the officer could not release the dog without putting other officers and bystanders in danger.

“The dog is highly trained to attack movement when the handler lets him go,” said Landry. Because of the number of people on the scene, the K-9 handler protected the dog from getting stabbed or mauling the wrong person, according to Landry. Instead, the K-9 officer put himself and the dog between Pellerin and a woman who was pumping gas at the Shell station.

As Pellerin approached the Shell store, knife still in hand, three of the five officers on the scene opened fire on him, shooting 11 rounds in 2.4 seconds, according to Landry. Pellerin was then handcuffed in accordance with police training and officers began to give him medical aid. The two officers who did not fire did so because of concerns their shots would miss Pellerin and hit people inside the Shell station via a window.

“Releasing the K-9 likely would have resulted in a dead dog and a suspect still armed with a deadly weapon,” said Landry.

Landry said officers did not aim for Pellerin’s legs to stop him from entering the store because their training requires them to fire at the center of the suspect’s mass until the threat is eliminated. Officers also did not intentionally try to shoot Pellerin’s knife out of his hand due to the difficulty of such a maneuver. However, Landry did confirm that the autopsy did show at least one bullet from the shooting went through Pellerin’s knife-hand.

Landry said police gave Pellerin 39 separate “clearly heard” commands, including 13 to drop his knife, 17 to get on the ground, three to show his hands, five to get out of the road and one for him not to enter the store.

“The officers went above and beyond the requirements for the use of deadly force,” said Landry. “They were very cognizant of civilians nearby Pellerin and innocent bystanders.”

Landry said officers had seven instances in which they were justified in using deadly force, but in six of those cases, they did not fire their guns. When an armed suspect is within 21 feet of an officer, Landry explained, police are justified in firing their weapons.

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