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First a Louisiana man was struck and killed on his birthday while doing a good deed. Then, social media posts by the man who allegedly struck him sparked outrage across social media.
Sherell L. Lewis Jr., 31, was struck and killed on Tuesday while removing debris from a highway in Vernon Parish at around 3 p.m. that afternoon, police told KPLC, an NBC affiliate based in Louisiana.
Lewis was struck by a pickup truck driven by 18-year-old Matthew M. Martin, police said. Another pedestrian was helping Lewis remove the debris at the time of the fatal crash, the Leesville Daily Leader reports.
“What it appears at this point is that this man was trying to do a good deed,” Louisiana State Police Sgt. James Anderson told KPLC. “There was debris in the roadway and he didn’t want any other motorists to strike it. So he gets out of the vehicle to remove the debris, and he is struck while this is happening.”
Lewis was rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. Martin, who was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident, was not injured. The crash is still under investigation, KPLC reports, and routine toxicology tests are pending.
The day Lewis died was also his birthday, according to The Root.
Following the fatal crash, Martin allegedly shared a photo of his truck in a Snapchat post,and wrote in the caption, “y’all i just hit a whole guy on the highway,” accompanied by three crying emojis. Screenshots of an alleged conversation between Martin and an unidentified individual, during which they casually discuss the state of Martin’s truck, reveal Martin referring to the man he struck as “some n*gger.”
These posts sparked immense backlash on social media, with activists and community members demanding #JusticeforRell on Twitter. Lake Charles NAACP President Rev. J.L. Franklin spoke to KPLC about it.
“It’s horrendous,” Franklin said. “Our prayers are with the family, no doubt about that. But what is most devastating is the aftermath of that. The posts.”
The Vernon Parish Sheriff's Office offered their sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Sherell Lewis Jr. in a Facebook post on Tuesday, and verified that while the “incendiary language” of Martin’s posts is “morally and socially unacceptable,” Martin did not break the law.
“I am appalled at the content of the social media messages that were posted after the incident,” wrote Sheriff Sam Craft. “This post is unacceptable and has no place in our society. The inflammatory words that were used were morally wrong.”
Craft invited people to send more information in.
“I have the utmost confidence in the Louisiana State Police and their ability to thoroughly investigate this incident. I encourage any citizen who has information regarding the accident to contact the Louisiana State Police – Troop E, Alexandria, La. (318) 487-5911.”
Lewis was the owner of Sonny Boyz Barber and Beauty, his older sister, Shotoya Lewis-Ayers, told KPLC.
“He would have helped anybody that needed, help no matter what. If you were feeling down, he would always make jokes, crack you up, keep you smiling,” Lewis-Ayers said, adding, “He loved what he did. That includes the barbery and touching people’s lives.”
[Photo: Debris, Louisiana State Police]