A Truck Driver Struck Three Black People Walking in Ville Platte, Louisiana. Police Charged the Victims.

After a truck driver struck and injured Deonte Williams, Cody Mayes, and Tevin Wilson, police charged them for not wearing reflecting clothing at night. The driver was not charged. Photo:  KATC
After a truck driver struck and injured Deonte Williams, Cody Mayes, and Tevin Wilson, police charged them for not wearing reflecting clothing at night. The driver was not charged. Photo: KATC

A truck driver struck and injured three young black men walking in Ville Platte, Louisiana, on Tuesday, and the local authorities only want to penalize the victims. Police charged the three men who were struck, filing misdemeanors for not wearing reflective clothing and “obstructing a public passage,” according to the local ABC affiliate.

Deonte Williams, 21, Cody Mayes, 19, and Tevin Wilson, 17, were walking in the grass along North Chataignier Street, which has no sidewalk, when the driver, whose name has not been released, hit them with his truck. Wilson told local news channel KADN “everything went up black” and he “almost died” in the collision.

The truck driver has not been charged, according to the local press.

Where to begin?

The street conditions on North Chataignier are terrible. The ordinance against walking at night without reflective clothing has no safety purpose and only serves as an invitation for police harassment and victim-blaming. And the charge of “obstructing a public passage” appears to be entirely fabricated, since the victims were walking in the grass.

It’s all too common for law enforcement to criminalize vulnerable people for the simple act of walking in a pedestrian-hostile environment. In one high-profile case in Marietta, Georgia, a few years ago, Raquel Nelson lost her 4-year-old son to a hit-and-driver with a history of driving impaired, then the local DA charged her with vehicular homicide. They were just trying to cross the street from a bus stop to her apartment when the driver struck her son.

In Ville Platte, Williams and Wilson told the local news they will contest the “obstructing a public passage” charge. But hopefully this incident will prompt a more thorough reconsideration of local laws that criminalize normal behavior like walking at night, as well as street design improvements to make walking safer.

More recommended reading today: Price Tags looks at how standard traffic signal timing routinely puts older Americans in danger. And Bike Portland reports that a new bikeway in the works for seven years is finally complete.

  • TakeFive

    The ordinance against walking at night without reflective clothing has no safety purpose

    I can’t even believe I read this. It would seem that saving a life isn’t as important as hating vehicles and their drivers. As to whether this is needed pubic policy or whether there’s a better fix is a different topic.

    Deonte Williams, 21, Cody Mayes, 19, and Tevin Wilson, 17, were walking in the grass along North Chataignier Street,

    Not according to the police and the victims (as opposed to friends that were not hit) confirm they were not walking on the grass. Per your linked article:

    Williams said they were walking on the side of the road near the grass and two others were walking in the grass.

  • 1976boy

    “hating vehicles and their drivers”? Seriously?

    How many people have to die?

    In other eras there were human sacrifices to the gods, and we like to think we are better than that. We are not. We still do that. Bow down before the car god, or die.

  • TakeFive

    How many people have to die?

    Exactly! If reflective clothing will help save lives then it’s a good thing, not bad.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Next up, $1,000 fine for walking without a $200 sensor readable by the robocars. Limited quantities available.

  • TakeFive

    Cute but no substitute for saving lives. BTW, I have no responsibility for what laws were written or why. If you think you have better solutions then try communicating them here: http://www.cityofvilleplatte.com/

  • Joe R.

    Better solution is to build this newfangled thing known as a sidewalk.

  • TakeFive

    No argument from me. I’d be delighted if they built a sidewalk. Why don’t you add your voice to Larry’s: http://www.cityofvilleplatte.com/

  • michael macdonald

    Your odd interpretation of a Vision Zero concept could just as easily be applied to ban driving on this street at night, an alternative that would not infringe on the Constitutional right of free movement.

    If people choose to dress up like construction cones, that’s their right to do so, but local governments shouldn’t be targeting victims with reductions of Constitutional rights for failure of licensed drivers to drive in a safe manner.

  • Clevelandchick

    Why the hell isn’t there a safety ordinance against driving on the damn grass for fucks sake?

  • TakeFive

    As to whether this is needed pubic policy or whether there’s a better fix is a different topic.

    I have no idea how your comment as anything to do with what I said but feel free to make a constructive point where it might actually do some good. http://www.cityofvilleplatte.com/

  • michael macdonald

    Vision Zero is a concept that treats every traffic-related death as preventable. Your comment, “If reflective clothing will help save lives then it’s a good thing” sounds an awful lot like an endorsement of the Ville Platte law and a misunderstanding of Vision Zero, which in practices focuses on the causes of dangers on roadways rather than laws like this one that you are suggesting as justifiable.

  • TakeFive

    I have no responsibility for what laws were written or why.

    Consider not reading any more into my comment than what I actually said. That said, saving lives by whatever means is still a worthwhile cause for me but suit yourself.

  • TakeFive

    There may well be such an ordnance. Unfortunately the victims were not hit in the grassy area, at last according the police report and local news story as well as what the victims themselves stated.

  • thielges

    For those unfamiliar with southern Louisiana there’s a good reason to avoid walking on the grass: fire ants. Stepping into a fire ant mound can lead to painful and itchy bites that last for weeks. It is reasonable to expect that pedestrians will want to walk on the edge of the road.

    If the city can’t install sidewalks they should at least:
    – restripe the road to place fog lines on the edges and create some room for pedestrians
    – lower the speed limit.

    It is appalling that the PD has charged these guys for taking the most reasonable path. They probably figure it is easier to push around some young guys than to charge the presumably older motorist for driving too fast for conditions.

  • Then argue for a fucking sidewalk, not laws which make it illegal to walk.

  • Vooch

    saving lives would be to ban driving on this street after dark.

  • TakeFive

    The point I wished to make was done so in my original post. Apparently, if you go outside the Streetsblog box to make a substantive point it seems to befuddle everyone.

    Oddly, it’s as if I had some mysterious power and influence over the City of Ville Platte. Newsflash: I have none, zero, nada. If by chance you wish to actually be constructive then it may be worth your time to go where it might make a difference. http://www.cityofvilleplatte.com/

  • neroden

    So, it’s illegal to run over people. It’s not only legal, but an actual *constitutional right*, to walk down the street.

    Why are you blaming the victims, like the crooked local police?

  • MoBetta Jenkum

    Naw, wait… These were not victims…
    ….Those three dumb donaldz now have to look at each other knowing FOR THE REST OF THEY LIVES knowing that they lied to the entire world…
    ….They walked out in front of that car, willfully showing they arrsses like arrogant peac0cks expecting (basically demanding) the driver to stop. I use to do it too as a young thug to impress womens. The driver prolly thought they was fenna rob him like Reginald Denny, Robert Caudill, or that slow driver who had a masked-mob swarm around his car and start hitting it with bats in Charlotteville VA or some hicktown like that….

  • Tmoney

    Police have discretion whether to charge someone or not. I suggest they use it more often. Jamming some youths up after getting home from the hospital is ridiculous. No sidewalks or shoulder, reflective vests c’mon police…

  • Big Boss

    -Troll

  • MoBetta Jenkum

    -sus racist white-Jew honky (verified)

  • Big Boss

    You’re trying too hard.

  • Did I actually read that?!

    You know with 100% certainty that the author of the article is an idiot when you read this statement: “The ordinance against walking at night without reflective clothing has no safety purpose and only serves as an invitation for police harassment and victim-blaming.”
    Even not very smart folks can understand the purpose of the ordinance is to save lives. That street through a small town is no different than 10s of thousands of others in small-town America.

  • Penchant

    Is there a reason you mentioned the race of the victims?

    Is it harder for drivers to see pedestrians at night whose skin color does not reflect headlights? Or were you suggesting that LEO’s feel less motivated to investigate cases where the victims are black?

  • Flatlander

    if you’re disputing the second part, you’re not living in reality. See, for example his story: http://heavy.com/news/2017/04/nandi-cain-jr-sacramento-jaywalker-police-beating-assault-video-jaywalking-officer-name-photos-music-storm/comment-page-1/#comment-3152322

    Black pedestrian crossing legally, gets cited and beaten by cop.

  • Penchant

    I wasn’t disputing anything. I was asking why race was cited here. Trying to establish context.

  • Flatlander

    Fair enough. We’ve been hearing so much from the “I don’t see race” and “all lives matter” crowd that my patience has worn pretty thin…

    The significant literature about unequal treatment at traffic stops for people of color makes it highly relevant, in my view.

  • Flatlander

    While I tend to agree, it is extremely common across the country for rural, low-traffic areas not to have sidewalks, and many people like it that way. Rural roads are often built to minimum standards, if that, and sidewalks aren’t cheap.

  • Jame

    But for some reason the people who get stopped or cited for not wearing reflective gear most often are black….

  • Penchant

    No doubt, but if the author is going to put race in the headline, the assumption is that he/she is going to explain in the article why that’s a factor. In this case there is no further mention of race, so readers end up wondering where the author was going with that.

  • AMH

    It’s not an exaggeration. There might be a *slight* safety purpose, but the main purpose is clearly to make walking an abnormal, fringe, “dangerous” activity that is not a normal part of life but one which requires special equipment. The message is that normal people drive and can’t be expected to watch for people, even on a street where people live.

  • AMH

    There’s a petition to get the victims justice and safer streets:

    https://campaigns.organizefor.org/petitions/justice-for-ville-platte-pedestrians

  • Denny

    Lol. SOOO obviously a Troll. Darlin’, if you’re going to try to “type” what morons like you term “ghetto-speak” – you PROBABLY should not use words indicative of an education (or at least reading experience). I mean, really: “willfully showing”, “arrogant peacocks”, “when I needed to build up my confidence and get rid of that nervousness…”, and, my personal favorite, “that slow driver who had a masked-mob swarm around his car and start hitting it with bats in Charlottesville VA”. Oh, Lordy!!! And don’t “thugs” always deny being criminals – they “dind do nuffin'”, right? But the educated THUG that YOU are, admits to “robbing a gas station with your friends”. HAHAHAHA. And I BELIEVE it’s “finna” – NOT “FENNA”. You’re a foreigner, right? Who but a foreigner would use “arrssess” … Or, let me guess – you’re a THUG from SCOTLAND? IRELAND? ENGLAND? OMFG!!! You should try your schtick on Comedy Central.

  • Pan Dimensional

    Not if “readers” have any comprehension of the racist world we live in, they don’t. Only if “readers” who are very ignorant would wonder that.

  • Penchant

    That’s an assumption. The idea that there was a race component here was never developed or explained, let alone proven.

  • Charles

    They were hit and they were charged for being hit. This is a cover up. This would not happen to white folk.

  • Penchant

    Again, another assumption.

  • Denny

    Awwe…did i hurt your little feelings? Poor baby! Lol. SOOO obviously a Troll. Darlin’, if you’re going to try to “type” what morons like you term “ghetto-speak” – you PROBABLY should not use words indicative of an education (or at least reading experience). I mean, really: “willfully showing”, “arrogant peacocks”, “when I needed to build up my confidence and get rid of that nervousness…”, and, my personal favorite, “that slow driver who had a masked-mob swarm around his car and start hitting it with bats in Charlottesville VA”. Oh, Lordy!!! And don’t “thugs” always deny being criminals – they “dind do nuffin'”, right? But the educated THUG that YOU are, admits to “robbing a gas station with your friends”.

  • Denny

    (Cont’d…) HAHAHAHA. And I BELIEVE it’s “finna” – NOT “FENNA”. You’re a foreigner, right? Who but a foreigner would use “arrssess” … Or, let me guess – you’re a THUG from SCOTLAND? IRELAND? ENGLAND? OMFG!!! You should try your schtick on Comedy Central. P.S.: Nice Pic. As Big Boss notes, “you REALLY ARE trying too HARD!!!” But thanks for the laugh! What a Buffoon!!!

  • Charles

    It is always all the facts are not there and we don’t know what happen before. Now its another assumption. If I ran over 3 white boys I guarantee you wouldn’t be saying the same thing. It is clear these boys were walking in the grass area. It’s time for black walkers to carry guns so they can shoot the person who is trying to kill them with their vehicle.

  • Charles

    You have big lips and need them shut. House negro!

  • Penchant

    OK, now you’ve gone off the deep end.

    Bye . . .

  • Charles

    You are in denial and I don’t care. You are a racist neo nazi and want black folk to be quiet and accept everything white folk do and say. Not anymore your days are over.

  • KJ

    Whatever the purpose was, it is still a dumb ordinance as it takes responsibility away from the driver to slow down at night so that he/she can see clearly and drive responsibly.

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