Charcoal Lounge

One person died and four others were hospitalized with injuries after a gunfight outside the Charcoal Lounge early Sunday.

Looking forward to his upcoming birthday, Cedric Parker and his sister hit the club Saturday night to celebrate.

But on Monday, the day Parker would have turned 39, his family was in mourning, their lives forever changed.

Parker and his sister were leaving the Charcoal Lounge on Plank Road around 2 a.m. Sunday, ready to call it a night and head home, when gunfire exploded all around them and Parker collapsed onto the pavement. He was later pronounced dead on the scene. 

His sister was unharmed, but four other people were hospitalized with injuries after the chaotic gunfight. Baton Rouge police said they found shell casings from two different weapons, leading them to conclude two shooters opened fire.

Police spokesman Sgt. L'Jean McKneely Jr. was unable to say what prompted the shooting, but he said detectives believe Parker was a bystander. No arrests have been made.

The shooting, which unfolded outside the lounge around closing time, adds to an already unprecedented homicide rate plaguing Baton Rouge.

Taken too soon

The bullet that killed Parker was almost certainly meant for someone else. He happened to step outside at the worst possible moment, his family said.

His mom, Rosa Parker, awoke to his cousin banging on her front door early Sunday, telling her frantically that Cedric had been shot. They rushed to the scene.

"But even then, it still hadn't really hit me," she said. 

Standing on the front porch of a family home on North 44th Street early Monday afternoon, she recalled snapshots of a life taken too soon — like whenever Cedric would come visit and she would immediately start making coffee, knowing he would request it soon enough. 

Several feet from where his mom stood, his red Toyota Corolla sat in the driveway.

Cedric loved working on cars, from mechanical repairs to detailing and paint jobs, family said. He chose to celebrate his birthday over the weekend because he was working full time at an autobody shop.

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His Facebook posts include photos of cars with flawless paint jobs, messages about his kids and videos of him dancing around with his siblings. He counseled his Facebook friends about hard work, the importance of earning an honest living and staying active.

On his birthday last year, he posted photos of himself wearing a bowtie and matching suspenders, ready to celebrate. On Monday, some of his loved ones commented on the post from 2020, telling him "happy heavenly birthday" and expressing their condolences to his family. 

"He was a good child," his mom said. "Even the police said he had no record."

She described her son as gentle and well mannered, a loving father to his young children. He grew up in Eden Park, a neighborhood off Gus Young Avenue, several miles from the lounge where he was killed. 

'Blood everywhere'

The Charcoal Lounge has been a Plank Road fixture for years. A vintage-looking sign out front describes a "grown and sexy" atmosphere and advertises live bands, parties and receptions. Its Facebook page promises dancing and "drinks exclusively mixed to perfection."

The lounge is located along a busy commercial strip, with a car wash on one side and a credit union on the other. Attempts to reach the business owner Monday were unsuccessful. 

Marcus Gaines, who owns a restaurant adjacent to the Charcoal Lounge, said he arrived later Sunday morning to survey the scene during daylight hours.

"There was pretty much blood everywhere," he said. "I had to call the fire department to come clean it up."

Gaines said there are security cameras outside the building, but he had been having trouble with his internet connection on Saturday, and the subsequent repairs caused all recent footage to be lost. 

In over two years since he opened Ooh Dat Bar & Grill, Gaines said he had never had problems with gun violence. He was shaken up after the Sunday morning gunfight. 

After months of rampant violence, murders across East Baton Rouge Parish have surpassed all previous records for the second year running as police struggle to keep up with heavy caseloads and local leaders search for solutions. 

"The guy who died, I heard he was celebrating his birthday, buying drinks for everybody," Gaines said. "The violence is just getting worse and worse and worse. I don't know what we can do, but it needs to stop." 


Email Lea Skene at lskene@theadvocate.com.