Gunshots rang out through a residential neighborhood in north Baton Rouge late Wednesday morning, leaving one man dead and his family distraught. 

Crews responded around 11:45 a.m. to Avenue E near Elmer Avenue just north of Southern University's campus and found 59-year-old Billie Rollins, of Baker, dead at the scene, according to Baton Rouge police spokesman Sgt. Don Coppola Jr.

Baton Rouge police spokesman Sgt. Don Coppola Jr. said the incident remains under investigation.

Neighbors on the scene Wednesday afternoon reported hearing several shots, possibly nine or 10. Police cordoned off a large area surrounding multiple houses and yards on Avenue E. 

Crime tape crisscrossed the street and dozens of family members gathered just outside the tape. Several were crying hysterically, holding onto each other for support and pleading with officers to let them see the body. 

Coppola said a vehicle fire was found nearby on Central Road around the same time, but investigators have not yet determined whether the two incidents are connected. No suspects have been identified. 

One man who lives close to where the shooting occurred said he had just returned home from work and was inside his house when he heard a loud popping noise, which he initially assumed was fireworks leftover from New Year's Eve. 

Before running outside and calling police, he looked out the window and saw that the victim lying on the ground was a friend of his family and longtime resident of the area. 

"It just shook me up," the man said, who declined identifying himself, saying he was concerned about retribution. "It took me by total surprise. That was definitely not something I was expecting to see when I got home from work. … I guess I've got to take precautions now."

He said the shooting took place in an empty lot near a house that belongs to the victim's family. Police said the victim was found lying next to his white pickup truck in the 10100 block of Avenue E. That truck was later towed away from the scene. 

The neighborhood — filled with modest homes and friendly residents — is generally family oriented, he said. Many people have lived there for decades or even generations, including the victim and his family.

"I can't think who would do this," the man said. He described the victim as a lifelong resident of the neighborhood, "a real wholesome guy (who) would give you the shirt off his back."

Compiled from staff reports. To contact a crime reporter at The Advocate, email or call (225) 388-0369.