State Police identified a fugitive who jumped from the Veterans Memorial Bridge in St. James Parish into the Mississippi River on Tuesday as a suspect in three homicides in Jefferson Parish as well as other crimes in Baton Rouge.
Authorities continued looking for Kylan M. Laurent, 22, of Vacherie, after he stopped his car near the top of the northbound lane of the bridge shortly after 1 p.m. and jumped over the rail, troopers said in a news release.
His leap into the river far below terminated a high-speed pursuit by State Police that injured one trooper, said Trooper Russell Graham, State Police Troop A spokesman.
The bridge deck is approximately 165 feet above the surface of the river, said Lauren Lee, spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation and Development.
Personnel with State Police, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, St. James Parish Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Coast Guard and Port of South Louisiana searched for Laurent, but he had not been found as of late Tuesday.
Petty Officer Casey Ranel, spokeswoman for the Coast Guard in New Orleans, said the Coast Guard suspended its search Tuesday, but State Police said its search would continue.
Before the chase and Laurent’s leap to escape authorities, the East Baton Rouge Violent Crimes Unit, a multi-agency investigative unit in Baton Rouge, had been investigating his links to a number of criminal cases, troopers said.
The unit determined that Laurent is implicated in several crimes in Baton Rouge, including one in which he is wanted for prosecution on charges of aggravated battery and false imprisonment.
The unit later learned he is wanted in three Jefferson Parish homicide cases, troopers said.
In one of those slayings, in Kenner, Laurent is “a person of interest” in the strangulation of Anita McDonald, 22, of Flowood, Miss., city police said.
Kenner Police Chief Steve Caraway said that when the pursuit began Tuesday, police homicide detectives already were en route to search Laurent’s home in Vacherie in St. James Parish.
McDonald’s partially clothed body was found about 10 p.m. Monday in her bed in a room at a Comfort Suites Airport motel in the 2700 block of Idaho Avenue in Kenner, Caraway said.
The woman, who was arrested last year on a count of soliciting prostitution in Reno, Nev., had ligature marks on her neck and wrists, the chief said.
Also on Tuesday, prior to the chase, State Police detectives working with the East Baton Rouge Violent Crimes Unit were monitoring Laurent, troopers said.
The detectives asked troopers to conduct a traffic stop on Laurent “as a public safety precaution” while he was driving a black 2005 Chevrolet Impala on La. 18, troopers said.
As the two troopers tried to make the stop shortly before 1 p.m., Laurent sped away.
During the pursuit that followed, one of the troopers got into a wreck with his patrol car, but escaped without serious injuries, Graham said.
The other trooper kept chasing Laurent, who stopped his car near the top of the bridge partially in the outside northbound lane and partially in the shoulder.
Graham said the pursuing trooper saw Laurent get out, run in front of his parked car and jump over the rail.
“That was the last time he was seen,” Graham said, adding that bridge traffic was able to get around the jumper’s parked car until it was removed.
The bridge links Gramercy on the east bank of St. James Parish and Wallace on the west bank of St. John the Baptist Parish.
Police Chief Caraway said police detectives would continue investigating McDonald’s motel-room slaying in Kenner and try to establish whether Laurent would be implicated in the case.
The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office is investigating the other two homicides linked to Laurent, Trooper Graham said.
The Impala has been taken to the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Crime Laboratory for processing. The Baton Rouge cases tied to Laurent also remain under investigation, troopers said.
Anyone with information regarding any of these or similar cases is asked to call the Violent Crimes Unit through Louisiana State Police at (800) 434-8007.