LEESVILLE, La. — A Louisiana man was struck and killed Tuesday as he tried to move debris from a roadway, but it is the racist Snapchat posts reportedly written by the man who hit him that have people angry.
Sherell L. Lewis, 31, of Leesville, had pulled over on U.S. 171 in Vernon Parish just after 3 p.m. Tuesday and, along with another man, was moving wood into the median when he was struck by a red 2003 Chevy pickup driven by Matthew M. Martin, 18, of Hineston, a Louisiana State Police spokesman said.
Lewis, a barber, was taken to Byrd Regional Hospital in Leesville, where he was pronounced dead.
Snapchat posts uploaded under Martin’s name quickly garnered the public’s attention following the crash. One photo shows the red pickup truck at the scene.
“Y’all, I just hit a whole guy on the highway,” the post read.
A screenshot from the account, obtained by KPLC-TV in Lake Charles, appeared to show Martin talking with a friend who apparently asked Martin who he struck.
“Some (N-word),” Martin responded.
“How did the Chevy take it?” the friend asked.
Martin sent photos of the damage to the front end of his truck.
“It’ll buff out,” the friend joked before asking if the pedestrian died on impact.
“Yes sir,” Martin replied with a crying laughing emoji. “No, he died (on the way) to the hospital.”
Vernon Parish Sheriff Sam Craft said on his department's Facebook page that he has been contacted multiple times by people upset over the social media posts. He said that, while the posts were "morally and socially unacceptable," they did not violate any Louisiana criminal codes.
"I am appalled at the content of the social media messages that were posted after the incident. This post is unacceptable and has no place in our society," Craft said. "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."
The Rev. J.L. Franklin, president of the Lake Charles chapter of the NAACP, called the comments “horrendous.”
"Our prayers are with the family, no doubt about that," KPLC-TV reported. "But what is most devastating is the aftermath of that. The posts."
Lewis was engaged to be married. One of his final Facebook posts was a joke that stated, "I am seriously concerned about how my friends are going to behave at my wedding someday."
Lewis captioned the post “#June2K19,” the apparent date of his upcoming nuptials.
The day he died, he wrote, “Hey, I have a question. How you supposed to act at 31? I’m asking for a friend.”
Lewis' family told KALB in Alexandria that "Rell," as he was known in Leesville, was known for his giving spirit, often giving free haircuts and snacks to children who came into his shop, Sonny Boyz Barber and Beauty Shop, which is in the area of U.S. 171 where he died.
Lewis’ older sister, Shotoya Ayers, described him as her “little big brother.”
"When I found out, I was devastated that my best friend, who I grew up with, was gone," Ayers told the news station.
Master Trooper Scott Moreau said Thursday that investigating troopers had located two independent witnesses to the crash and obtained statements from them, as well as from the other pedestrian who was helping Lewis remove the debris from the roadway. Martin also talked to investigators at the scene of the crash.
"With regards to the insensitive comment posted to social media that occurred after the crash, we defer to the statement made by Sheriff Sam Craft of the Vernon Parish Sheriff's Office," Moreau said.
Routine toxicology tests are pending and the crash remained under investigation Thursday, the trooper said.
Cox Media Group