Brittany Thomas had finally found her path in life, it appeared.
After spending a few years struggling to figure out what she wanted to do, the Hammond woman was nearing graduation from a Baton Rouge nursing program and was celebrating in the French Quarter when the unthinkable happened early Sunday morning on Bourbon Street.
In an instant, the night of joy turned into panic and grief when a single bullet, fired by a still-unknown gunman, smashed through the back of Thomas’ head.
She was rushed to Interim LSU Hospital, where her condition never was listed as better than critical. In the end, her injury was so severe that she was taken off life support.
The bubbly 21-year-old died at 2:44 p.m. Wednesday.
“Everybody’s devastated by her loss,” said Donika Garner, who heads the adult education program for the Quad Area Community Action Agency in Hammond, which operates St. Amant Academy, a private alternative school from which Thomas graduated in 2011. “She had so much going for her.”
A message left Thursday with Thomas’ mother was not returned. A family friend told The Hammond Daily Star that Mariko Thomas was “in no shape to talk” after losing the daughter she had prayed would survive.
“We were hoping she was going to pull through,” Garner said. “We were being optimistic.”
Thomas is the only victim to have died as a result of the shooting that wounded nine other bystanders.
Only one person remained hospitalized Thursday, a hospital spokeswoman said. That victim’s condition was stable.
Those who knew Thomas described her as a hard-working and warm person, always wanting to be around others.
Around the tiny St. Amant campus she was known as “Giggles,” Garner said, because of a signature high-pitched chuckle.
“She had a laugh you’d never forget,” Garner said. “I can still hear her giggling in the classroom.”
A popular and universally liked student who was on the honor roll, Thomas propped up school spirit as a cheerleader, participated in the Spanish Club and worked on the yearbook.
While a good student in high school, Thomas was uncertain about what she wanted to do in the years after she earned her GED from St. Amant.
Eventually, she enrolled at Camelot College in Baton Rouge, where she was studying to become a nursing assistant.
Jackie Davenport, a classmate, said Thomas was known at Camelot for the same outgoing personality she exhibited in high school and a “laugh like Elmo.”
Thomas was rarely alone. Instead, she liked to spend time with other classmates talking, going out and fixing their hair, Davenport said.
“I don’t think she met a stranger,” Davenport said.
Davenport said Thomas was out with several other people to celebrate her pending August graduation from Camelot and transition into an externship program.
“She liked to hit the road with her friends,” Garner said. “She was always with somebody in a group.”
Now those who knew her are left to mourn the loss of a young woman and the dream she was working to attain.
“She was taken before she could achieve,” Garner said. “She was on the right path.”
WWL-TV reporter Ashley Rodrigue contributed to this report. Follow Danny Monteverde on Twitter, @DCMonteverde.