Thirty years ago, Brice Street was a great place for families. In recent years, the neighborhood between Government Street and North Boulevard has deteriorated, marred by crime and abandoned homes.
And in one of those abandoned homes Tuesday a 28-year-old man was shot and killed.
Alerted by neighbors who heard shots, police and first responders arrived at 242 Brice St. about noon, police spokesman Cpl. L’Jean McKneely Jr. said. Witnesses said they saw a man running from the back of the home through chest-high grass.
Inside, Roman Epting, 171 E. State St., Baton Rouge, was found dead, shot several times, McKneely said.
Police did not have a motive or suspects, McKneely said. The man seen running from the home is not considered a suspect, he said.
Outside the tan home with white trim, and with blue graffiti marring the front of the home, family members gathered, consoling one another as homicide detectives talked to people in the growing crowd, walking onlookers away to a quiet place to talk before returning a few minutes later.
Officers scoured the high grass behind and alongside the home and talked to more people.
A woman who said she was Epting’s mother was too grief-stricken to comment.
William Atkins, 36, standing across the street, watched family members of the victim grieve while detectives searched the vacant house for clues.
He said he knew Epting and had watched him play basketball and football at some courts and fields at a nearby apartment complex.
“He was someone you could talk to and chill with,” Atkins said. “He wasn’t a bad person.”
Rebecca Becknel, 73, sat on her porch two houses down from Atkins and watched police going in and out of the house where she had lived from 2005-08.
“It’s been steadily deteriorating,” Becknel said of the house where the body was found.
E. Johnson, a former Brice Street resident, said the area has deteriorated rapidly over the past few years, so much so that she would not rear children there.
“When I was raising my children, there was no killing,” she said of the neighborhood where she lived 30 years ago. “It’s sad when you can’t raise your children here.”
She attributed the rise in crime to an increase in abandoned homes, which have become “click houses,” vacant homes where people gather to gamble or sell drugs.
Johnson said the Brice Street house had been abandoned for several years.
Dr. Beau Clark, the East Baton Rouge Parish coroner, said an autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday morning.