Clyde Kerr III, a 43-year-old Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s deputy, left haunting messages on social media about police brutality and the difficulty of reconciling his identity as a Black man with his profession before he took his own life on Monday, Feb. 1, outside of the sheriff’s office.
“You have no idea how hard it is to put a uniform on in this day and age with everything that’s going on,” Kerr said in one of the videos.
Kerr, a father and military veteran, began serving with the sheriff’s office in June of 2015. He has served as a deputy on patrol, a member of the SWAT team, and a school resource officer in the southern Louisiana district.
In videos that have gained thousands of views since his death, Kerr spoke to the camera about police brutality against Black people and racism within police divisions. He said he no longer wanted to serve a department that did not care about people who look like him.
“I’ve had enough of all this nonsense … subservience. Of serving a system that does not give a damn about me or people like me,” Kerr said in a video recorded on Jan. 31.
Kerr said he could no longer abide by the “killing that’s going on, especially by the police, which I am.”
“My entire life has been in the service of other people … y’all entrust me to safeguard your little ones, your small ones, the thing that’s most precious to you, and I did that well. I passed security clearance in the military … but that has allowed me to see the inner workings of things.”
Kerr then made reference to some of the unarmed Black people who have been killed by police in recent years.
“Botham?” he said, in reference to Botham Jean, who was fatally shot by former Dallas cop Amber Guyger in his home in 2018.
“Shot in his own apartment,” Kerr said. “How does that work?”
“Floyd? Man. Breonna?” he said, in reference to the 2020 deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the latter was fatally shot by police. “That sh-t is not right! I’m telling you it’s not right,” he said. “And they’re getting away with it.”
Kerr suggested that there be more civilian oversight and standardized training implemented to improve the way communities are policed.
Kerr also talked about how exposure to violence has negatively impacted him.
He talked about the trauma of working the night Lafayette Police Cpl. Michael Middlebrook was killed, and stressed the need for members of law enforcement to have greater access to mental health resources.
Kerr hinted about his suicide in the video, saying, “I’m a small cog in this whole big machine but I’m jumping off.”
He insisted that he made the conscious decision to kill himself as a “protest.”
Lafayette City Marshal Reggie Thomas, the first Black person elected to a citywide position in Lafayette, acknowledged the growing problem of law enforcement officers struggling with mental health issues.
“We realized we need to do something because, nationally, a lot of officers are committing suicide,” he said.
Today, LPD requires any officer involved in a “critical incident” to get counseling. Thomas also said officers can get counseling without letting the department know.
In a newsletter to parents, leaders from St. Genevieve school, where Kerr served, addressed the deputy’s passing.
“[Kerr] was well known for his big smile, frequent conversations with students and staff, and friendly fist bumps. We will continue to keep him and his family in our prayers. He will be greatly missed,” St. Genevieve school leaders said in the newsletter.
The Diocese of Lafayette is organizing counseling sessions for students and staff.