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.

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