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A Black man who was panhandling outside a Trader Joe’s in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was allegedly shot and killed by a white man over the weekend. On Tuesday, local police issued an arrest warrant for the accused gunman.
Jace Boyd, 24, is wanted in connection to the fatal shooting of Danny Buckley, a 61-year-old father who was begging for money in the grocery store’s parking lot Saturday night, according to attorneys for Buckley’s family. Boyd’s now facing charges of second-degree murder and illegal use of a weapon, according to a statement from the Baton Rouge Police Department.
Buckley is disabled and was unarmed, according to the family’s attorneys. He could “barely move,” one attorney, Ryan Thompson told VICE News, because of painful, pre-existing health conditions. He’s also well-known to the community.
“This is an assault, in my opinion, on the poor just as much as this is an assault on race,” said Ron Haley, the Buckley family’s other attorney.
A young white woman, identified only as “Kaylee,” has said that she believes she was the last person Buckley asked for help in the parking lot. After Kaylee walked away from Buckley and toward her car with her roommate, she heard Boyd telling Buckley to leave the women alone, according to Thompson and Haley, who said they interviewed Kaylee at length on Tuesday. Then she heard gunfire.
Thompson compared Buckley’s death to the lynching of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old who murdered in Mississippi in 1955 after allegedly whistling at a white woman.
“In the South, in America, it is known that you do not talk to white women if you’re a Black male,” Thompson said. “That was his crime.”
Kaylee told the attorneys that she tried to provide a statement to police right away but was brushed off. She contacted police again the next day and was able to offer her account of what happened. In an interview with WAFB, a local CBS affiliate, she said she told police she did not feel threatened by Buckley. Kaylee did not immediately respond to a VICE News request for comment via Twitter.
Once officers arrived at the scene Saturday, Boyd “advised that he shot Buckley,” according to a police synopsis of the incident obtained by VICE News. (Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the synopsis.) Buckley was taken to a hospital and died shortly thereafter. William “Beau” Clark, the coroner for East Baton Rouge Parish, wrote in an email to VICE News that the cause of death was a gunshot wound to the abdomen, and that the manner of death was homicide.
Police detectives wrote in their synopsis that Buckley was “aggressively harassing customers” prior to being shot, without characterizing that behavior further or mentioning panhandling. Officers questioned Boyd over the shooting but released him without charges pending further investigation, prompting outcry from local advocates.
Gary Chambers, who posted a video explaining the shooting to Twitter and Facebook Monday, was among those who felt Boyd should’ve been immediately charged. After his video was published calling for transparency, Kaylee came forward on Twitter.
“I just thought it was egregious that someone could kill somebody in the parking lot and go home that night,” Chambers told VICE News earlier Tuesday. “The man’s crime seems to be poverty, and he was gunned down by this young white man.”
Thompson told VICE News Tuesday night that although an arrest warrant had been issued, he doesn’t believe justice has been served until Boyd’s been formally billed by the local district attorney’s office and convicted. Thompson and Haley have described the killing as a hate crime worthy of both state and federal charges.
A number listed for Boyd in the police synopsis obtained by VICE News went straight to voicemail; an email request for comment was not returned. A Facebook profile sharing Boyd’s name and location had been deleted or made private by Tuesday morning, but the attorneys noted the profile had shared Confederate imagery on numerous occasions. The profile disappeared shortly after a local reporter tried to reach Boyd, according to the Advocate.
Anonymous sources familiar with the case told the Baton Rouge Business Report that Boyd was defending himself because he and his wife felt threatened. Louisiana has a “Stand Your Ground” law that provides a legal defense to those who commit homicide when they believe they’re in imminent danger of losing their lives or “receiving great bodily harm.”
Thompson said it’s “impossible” that Boyd feared for his life.
Sharon Weston Broome, the mayor-president of East Baton Rouge Parish and Baton Rouge, said on Twitter Tuesday morning that she was “very concerned” about the shooting, which she described only as “the incident that occurred this past weekend outside a local business.” She said she had spoken to the police chief to request a “fair and transparent review” of what happened.
Editor’s note 8/26: This story has been updated to clarify that “Kaylee” was able to give her statement to police.
Cover: Photo of Danny Buckley, courtesy of his family.