Residents of Parnell Drive — a subdivision lined with tidy brick homes and manicured lawns in the Sherwood Forest area — were shocked and confused Sunday morning after learning a homicide had taken place overnight inside one of the houses along their street.
Police responded to the 12700 block of Parnell Drive around 1:45 a.m. and found that Zakaria Toom, 50, had died from apparent gunshot injuries, said Baton Rouge police spokesman Sgt. Don Coppola Jr. Authorities arrested Taher Toom, 53, several hours later at his home in Tangipahoa Parish and booked him into jail on counts of second-degree murder and illegal use of a weapon.
Coppola said police believe the two men are related and are working on determining the exact relationship. Police also believe both are relatives of the family living in the house on Parnell Drive, though neither resided there themselves, he said.
Neighbors said a family of three — a couple and their young daughter — moved into the home a few months ago.
Alethia Doucette, 49, who lives in the house next door, said she woke up around midnight and was getting a drink of water when she heard screams coming from outside. Then after police had started investigating, an officer came to her door and asked if the woman and her daughter from the house where the shooting had occurred could use Doucette’s bathroom, since theirs was inside the crime scene.
Doucette said the woman told her then that the victim was related to her husband.
The family could not be reached for comment Sunday afternoon.
Investigators have not yet determined a motive. But Coppola said information provided by witnesses was crucial to the arrest.
Some crime tape remained barely visible through the fence surrounding Doucette’s yard Sunday afternoon, stretching across the neighboring backyard, which was otherwise littered only with colorful children’s toys.
The subdivision — which was lucky to avoid flooding last year — is generally very safe, Doucette said. “It is unfortunate that this comes along and happens in such a quiet neighborhood.”
Paula Lafayette, 46, lives a few houses down and was outside Sunday afternoon adorning her front yard with Christmas decorations.
After 14 years in the neighborhood, she said emphatically that the incident Saturday night was “the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen on this street.” When her son came home around 11 p.m. Saturday “everything seemed normal.”
Taher Toom, 14055 Tricou Boulevard, Hammond, was being held Sunday in Tangipahoa Parish Jail but will later be transferred to East Baton Rouge Parish Prison, according to police.
Anyone with additional information in the fatal shooting is asked to contact the Baton Rouge Police Violent Crimes Unit at (225) 389-4869 or Crime Stoppers at (225) 344-7867.