An investigation has begun in central Louisiana after a local police officer shot and killed a Black male driver who was allegedly unarmed for reasons that were not immediately disclosed. Video footage recorded at the scene includes one account that claimed the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s deputy behind the shooting in the city of Alexandria shot the driver “in the head.”
The driver was ultimately identified as Derrick Kittling, 45, whose brother is a high-ranking official in the Louisiana State Police department, which is the law enforcement agency tasked with investigating the shooting.
Kittling was shot and killed on Sunday afternoon, but details beyond that are unclear.
Local media reported a narrative provided by law enforcement that described Kittling as the aggressor.
Kittling allegedly “took the deputy’s taser after the two started fighting on the side of 7th Street in Alexandria,” WFAB9 reported. “After some time, the deputy shot Kittling,” who was hospitalized before being pronounced dead.
However, video footage recorded at the scene by bystanders suggests that Kittling was shot dead in the street.
The graphic footage showed an apparently lifeless body lying on a street as the still-unidentified police officer who shot him rummages through the trunk of his cruiser. The officer then goes over to the body and begins putting on handcuffs, according to bystanders who could be heard speaking on the video.
“He ain’t have no gun or nothing,” a voice can be heard saying as the camera pans across the scene. “He just shot that man in the head.”
When a distant voice can be asking whether the police did it, the same initial person speaking responds: “Yeah, the police killed that man right there.”
The bystander continues and insists the officer was “trying to Tase that man for no reason, pulling that man out the truck,” presumably referring to Kittling.
A national civil rights activist suggested that having the Louisiana State Police investigate the shooting presents a clear conflict of interest, according to local news outlet KALB.
“We understand that the police department for the state is investigating, however as an agency that oversees other agencies in the state, we do not really have the trust or integrity that they believe that they will come with the truth,” Norris Guillot Jr. told media during a vigil for Kittling on Monday evening.
Kittling’s uncle said he is in search of more facts in the case.
“The investigation must run its course because we are not interested in a hurried decision. We are very much interested in the truth, and the truth will make us all free,” Reverend Herbert Green said. “Derrick was an obedient young man.”
There may be unprecedented pressure on state police with this case considering the fact that Kittling’s brother is Louisiana State Police Lt. Colonel Kenny VanBuren, whose official bio describes him as “a 31-year veteran with Louisiana State Police and currently serves as the Deputy Superintendent of the Bureau of Investigations.” Specifically, VanBuren “is responsible for the investigation of criminal activity, intelligence gathering, and case and technical support in the State of Louisiana.”
Kittling’s family has retained the legal services of civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who called for all “video evidence” to be made public in order to find out what happened.
“Our thoughts are with the Kittling family as they grieve the loss of Derrick and search for answers as to why their loved one was killed. We stand with the family, dedicated and determined, to learn why Derrick, who was unarmed, was subject to that traffic stop and why he did not make it home that day,” Crump said in a statement emailed to NewsOne. “Video evidence is the most reliable and transparent way to obtain answers and explanations in cases of deaths resulting from law enforcement actions. We urge the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office to release all footage from this incident so that this family and community can get the closure and answers they deserve.”
The Louisiana State Police is currently under a pattern and practice investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) following troopers killing Ronald Greene — a 49-year-old Black man who was Tasered, beaten and choked during a deadly arrest in 2019 — and other cops getting busted joking about brutalizing a Black driver. Both incidents suggested a broader pattern and practice of brutality within the Northeast division of the Louisiana State Police.
Back in June when the DOJ first announced the pattern and practice investigation, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clark specifically noted reports of “unwarranted” force by Louisiana State Police troopers for mostly minor-traffic incidents — like the one Kitterling may have been involved in before being shot to death.
Notably, the last time there was a high-profile police shooting involving a reported struggle over a Taser during a traffic stop, an officer in Michigan was charged with first-degree murder for shooting African refugee Patrick Lyoya in the head at close range. In that case, video footage played a pivotal role.
This is America.