Louisiana State Police are investigating after a Vernon Parish man was struck and killed by a vehicle on Tuesday near Highway 171, a deadly incident that was followed by racist and incendiary remarks by the driver.
Sherell Lewis Jr., 31, of Leesville had stopped to remove debris from the middle of the freeway when he was struck by a pick-up truck Tuesday afternoon, according to local reports. Lewis, a beloved barber in the community, was rushed to the hospital but later succumbed to his injuries during medical treatment.
According to local station KALB, LSP Troopers spoke with the driver, Matthew Martin, at the scene and questioned him and other witnesses about the incident. It was Martin’s Facebook and Snapchat posts following the crash, however, that has folks up in arms. Screenshots of his cell phone revealed exactly what Martin thought of Lewis, as he repeatedly referred to the slain man using the n-word.
📍Leesville, LA! This guy here (Matthew Martin) after hitting and killing someone on the hwy, called him a “nigger” and was worried about nothing but his truck! He got on Facebook and acted like her cared but he didn’t! We need #JUSTICEFORRELL!! Retweet! And tag KALB etc! pic.twitter.com/muLbjRHKIG
— Quan🤘🏾 (@CulbertMarquan) May 30, 2018
“Y’all, I just hit a whole guy on the highway,” the 18-year-old wrote on Snapchat, followed by several laughing emojis.
In a text chat between him and someone else, Martin tells a friend he hit “some n-gger” on the highway, adding that the impact “f—–d up” his truck pretty good.
Vernon Parish Sheriff John S. Craft said he was “appalled” by the messages.
” … This post is unacceptable and has no place in our society,” Craft said in a statement. Adding, “The inflammatory words that were used were morally wrong. I have the utmost confidence in the Louisiana State Police and their ability to thoroughly investigate this incident [and] I encourage any citizen who has information regarding the accident to contact the Louisiana State Police.”
While Martin’s language was offensive and socially unacceptable, Craft said the post itself didn’t violate any Louisiana criminal code. That hasn’t stopped local activists from rallying for justice on Lewis’ behalf. Locals have reportedly pressed police to investigate Martin for possible vehicular homicide but claim authorities have been unwilling to cooperate.
One concerned citizen who called the police over the incident said he was hung up on after going back and forth with an officer about the investigation.
News of Lewis’ death has sparked the hashtag #Justice4Rell, as friends and supporters took to social media to celebrate his life. There were also those who were relentless in their call for justice in the young man’s death.
Bro used to cut my hair man…helping someone out on the highway ON HIS BIRTHDAY, gets hit by a truck, and to them his life meant no more than their front bumper.. we just targets out here 💔.
— karios (@karios_j) May 30, 2018
This ish so crazy! I still can’t believe the sadness behind this whole situation. I know many of us couldn’t sleep well last night with this on mind… I wonder how Matthew Martin slept 🤔 #JUSTICEFORRELL #JUSTICE4RELL
— Kayla Nicole Johnson (@keonasmommi2015) May 30, 2018
— William R Thomas Jr. (@WillhavMERCY4) May 30, 2018
This man meant a lot to the community here. He was at every event, school function, games, graduation all that. Most of all man he cared about us everytime we went into the barber shop he would give us advice and talk to us💯 #JusticeForRell #Justice4Rell pic.twitter.com/OUbzxLy3ck
— zayraw_ (@xavier_evans3) May 30, 2018
HAPPY BDAY MY BOY❗️🎊❤️you will never be forgotten🤞until we meet again 💔R.I.P UGK RELL #JUSTICE4RELL I love you forever
— #JUSTICE4RELL (@MalikkPhillipss) May 30, 2018
Tuesday’s incident remains under investigation.