Protests erupted in Louisiana on Saturday after a video showing police fatally shooting a black man went viral on social media. Police officers fired at least 10 rounds of shots at the man, identified as Trayford Pellerin.
About 150 people gathered in Lafayette city where the deadly shooting occurred. Demonstrators threw stones and water bottles at police vehicles. They were later dispersed after police in riot gear fired smoke grenades, the Acadiana Advocate reported.
The shooting occurred Friday night after the Louisiana State Police said they responded to a disturbance at a convenience store. Upon arriving at the scene, officers found 31-year-old Pellerin holding a knife. The police said they tased him but he continued to walk away from them. He was shot dead after being surrounded by a group of police officers near a convenience store.
A bystander recorded a video of the incident, which was posted on Twitter. In the video, the officers appeared to have fired at least 10 shots at Pellerin as he lay on the ground. He was declared dead at a local hospital.
The video drew outrage from The American Civil Liberties Union and The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The ACLU called for reforms to end "the epidemic of police violence."
"Trayford Pellerin should be alive today. Instead, a family is mourning and a community is grieving. ... None of our communities are safe when the police can murder people with impunity or when routine encounters escalate into deadly shooting sprees," Alanah Odoms Hebert, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana said.
The NAACP blamed Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory for the rising violence against Black people in the city. "I'll say it. Our mayor is racist. Everything he has done since he's been in office has impacted the African American community negatively. It's time for this to stop," Lafayette NAACP President Marja Broussard said.
On Saturday, Guillory denounced protesters and justified Pellerin's shooting saying in a statement that the police officers opened fire only when they realised "the armed individual was attempting to enter a convenience store, threatening the lives of the customers and workers inside." He held a press conference Saturday night but did not address the shooting and rather said Lafayette was a peaceful community. Guillory's apparent lack of compassion toward Pellerin or his family drew criticism from activists.
Meanwhile, Lafayette Police Department Interim Police Chief Scott Morgan said an investigation was launched into the shooting and was handed over to the Louisiana State Police. "We don't know how many officers were involved at this point, we don't interview the witnesses – we are turning that information over to the Louisiana state police," he said.