Militant Journalism

Baton Rouge community demands answers, justice for Deaughn Willis

Demonstrators gathered in Baton Rouge on March 5, calling for answers in the January killing of Deaughn Willis. The demonstration brought together members from many different organizations across the Baton Rouge community, including those close to the family, congregants of the Willis family’s church, local organizers, students and Baton Rouge’s NAACP.

On Jan. 9, Louisiana State Police conducted a raid on the Willis family’s apartment on George O’Neal Road. When Deaughn went to check on the source of banging on the front door, the state police already had guns drawn, and opened fire after Deaughn closed the front door, shooting him through the door.

Deaughn’s mother Trinelle, who is a nurse, described the aftermath. Despite her many years of medical expertise, state police prevented her from attempting to resuscitate her own son while awaiting first responders, and instead detained her in a cop car. Deaughn died from his injuries.

As of March 5, nearly two months later, state police still had not spoken with the Willis family concerning Deaughn’s killing, nor had they released the surveillance tapes from that night.

Deaughn’s story has attracted attention in Baton Rouge and in media across the country due to the flagrant nature of the state police’s actions.

At the march, community members heard directly from the Willis family before marching to a nearby police precinct. There, family members knocked on the door, demanding answers from the police. And even though the precinct lights were on, no one from the police department came to give any kind of response.

Local organizers promised to keep up the pressure on the police and to keep coming out for as long as necessary for Deaughn Willis to get justice.

Deaughn Willis is remembered as a hard-working, family-oriented young man. He had recently gotten a job at a local plant to help the family and build a career in a good industry. Trinelle couldn’t help but share how tight-knit she was with Deaughn, as she said, “No one could ever tell me anything about Deaughn, because we spent so much time together.”

An epicenter of racist police terror

Unfortunately, this is not the first time Louisiana State Police have protected a killer cop. In 2019, after taking Ronald Greene’s life in Monroe, Louisiana, state police claimed that he died in a car accident. Community organizers had to put enormous pressure on the state to learn the truth, exposing a cover up that went all the way up to the governor’s office.

There’s no doubt that the people of Baton Rouge will be just as persistent in seeking justice for Deaughn Willis — justice always comes from the people.

Baton Rouge remains an epicenter of the police violence epidemic. To keep the spotlight on this issue, the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison Reform Coalition hosts a monthly car caravan for justice at the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison. This is because even when the police arrest people rather than shooting them, the violence does not stop.

The parish prison has the most deaths of any prison in the entire country. The vast majority of those incarcerated at the parish prison end up acquitted or with charges dropped, after dealing with lengthy pretrial detentions. In other words, they are held for months or years in extremely dangerous conditions without ever being convicted of any crime.

As locals continue to fight back against dangerous prisons and racist police murder, the message from the Baton Rouge community is clear: Our current system of policing cannot stop the cycles of violence that it itself creates. 

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