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The coroner's office leaves the scene as Baton Rouge Police work the scene of the city's first homicide of the year in the 5900 block of Cadillac Street in Baton Rouge, La.

After the East Baton Rouge murder rate broke all previous records in 2020, the unprecedented violence has continued during the first four months of this year and shows no sign of slowing.

Two homicides over the weekend brought the 2021 murder count to 50 as of May 1 — just four months into the year, according to unofficial records maintained by The Advocate. That puts the parish well on track to exceed the carnage of 2020.

BR homicides chart 2018-2021

Law enforcement officials often warn of increased violence during the summer when kids are home from school and temperatures are rising, which might not bode well for the coming months in Baton Rouge.

If the killings continue unabated during the rest of 2021, the parish would end the year with about 150 murders, well above the 114 recorded in 2020. Last year marked just the second time in history that the parishwide total surpassed 100, the first being in 2017.

The Advocate tracks intentional and unjustified killings in accordance with federal crime reporting standards. The numbers are preliminary and could change in the future if law enforcement rules some cases accidental or justified and vice versa.

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Baton Rouge was not alone in seeing a dramatic spike in murders last year, a trend that was reflected across the country. Experts and law enforcement leaders largely agreed that the increased violence was tied to the myriad disruptions and challenges caused by the pandemic, including financial hardship and mental health and addiction issues. At the same time, some law enforcement investigations were hampered by social distancing requirements and widespread protests against police brutality further stretched relations among officers and their communities.

Local officials were hopeful that homicides would decrease as the pandemic subsided and some aspects of normal life resumed, but the killings have accelerated in recent weeks, with 13 people killed in the month of April alone. 

Two more lives were lost to violence on Saturday. One of the victims was Derrick Cavazos, 35, a former Southern University adjunct professor and 2019 graduate of the Southern Law Center. He was killed after exchanging gunfire with a suspected burglar, according to police. A second man was killed later that day: Woodrow Wisham, 58, was found shot to death on Convention Street. 

Monday morning saw even more violence, with two people shot to death in the 2000 block of Richmond Street near Baker. Their identities have not been released, but authorities are searching for the suspect, Eric Derell Smith, who is accused of killing both victims and then fleeing the scene with his infant child. 


Email Lea Skene at lskene@theadvocate.com.