In front of an overflowing crowd Tuesday night, Baton Rouge officials called for community collaboration from across the parish to help respond to a recent spike in gun violence, but also clarified that this rash of shootings remains an anomaly.

“As your mayor-president, I want to convey a feeling of measured calm," said East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome. "Certainly we have challenges, but this is not Gotham City.”

Broome, along with Baton Rouge police Chief Murphy Paul and East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux, said the recent shootings are not indicative of an overall spike in violent crime or a part of a longer-term trend. 

“Unfortunately, this past weekend we had a very violent weekend, but that is not the norm," Paul said. “Despite what happened this weekend … crime is still down in Baton Rouge."

The meeting followed a week of violent crime in the parish: since June 26, there have been eight unrelated shootings which have killed four people and injured 14 others, including a triple homicide Thursday off South Harrell's Ferry Road that killed a mother, grandmother and the mother's boyfriend and a nightclub shooting early Saturday that injured seven patrons.

All but two of the shootings remain unsolved. Police do not believe any of the shootings are be connected.

Paul asked that community members step in and speak out when they learn about a potential crime of violence, urging them to reach out to authorities.

"When we see seven people shot in a nightclub, that could have been stopped," Paul said. He said he wished the bar owners and promoters had worked with police before the event, or friends of those involved in the shooting had warned officials. That type of communication has happened at other hip-hop events in the past, he said, keeping everyone safe. “To say that we can’t keep anyone safe in clubs is just not true.”

However, a promoter who helped plan the Friday night gathering on Florida Boulevard that turned into the early Saturday morning shooting said he wished he could work with police to deter crime from otherwise positive events.  

"We need law enforcement," said Terrance Williams, 27. Paul later acknowledged that BRPD does have a policy against officers working at bars or nightclubs, and said he's going to do research into improving that. 

But mostly at the almost three-hour meeting, Baton Rouge leaders and residents called for greater collaboration to support young people and those who are driving crime, the people Paul called "bad actors." 

"Let’s call it what it is: They’re young black men involved in a culture of violence," Paul said. "Our officers are doing everything in their power to solve these crimes. … We have to start (responding) as a community."

Representatives from Truce, a nonprofit that intervenes in groups or gangs criminal activity, Fathers on a Mission, a group that supports dads, the Family and Youth Service Center and EmployBR, a job program for youth, all spoke at the meeting, sharing their resources with the room at the Main Library on Goodwood Boulevard. Later, dozens of members of the community, from teachers and business owners, to men who previously ran in the streets and faith leaders, spoke to those gathered, some asking questions, others giving advice. Many called for better education, parenting and job opportunities to help people find the path away from crime. 

Pearl Porter, a member of the 70805 Community Action Team, said she came out to hear other residents' concerns and law enforcement's plan to make adjustments. 

"I realize they can't do it by themselves," Porter said, noting that her organization has started doing their own clean-ups. She also said she was glad to hear about other available resources in the parish. Porter and fellow 70805 Community Action Team member Lynette Allen said they hope elected officials follow through. 

"Let's get this problem taken care of," Allen said. 

The most recent shooting victim was found early Tuesday walking on Interstate 10 near the I-110 split. Police say the woman was shot about 2 a.m. by a friend whom she'd been riding with on the interstate. The alleged shooter was apprehended less than an hour later in Woodville, Mississippi, when local law enforcement shot the man, injuring him. He has since been transported back to Baton Rouge. 

About 24 hours prior, early Monday morning, a 31-year-old man was injured in a shooting on Plank Road

Over the weekend, gun violence began Friday night, when three people were shot in an armed robbery on Jasper Avenue in the Gardere area. In an unrelated shooting that night, one person was injured near a Tigerland bar. 

Then, early Saturday morning at a crowded Florida Boulevard nightclub, seven people were injured by gunfire when a shooting broke out inside the club, then moved outside. Later that day, a 14-year-old girl was wounded in a shooting in the parking lot of the movie theater near the Mall of Louisiana.

None of the 14 people injured in the six shootings since Friday have died of their injuries. 

Two shootings before those, however, left four people dead. On June 26, the body of an 18-year-old was found dumped in Perkins Road Park; the autopsy revealed he had been fatally shot in the head.

Hours later, just after midnight Thursday, three people were killed in a shooting rampage by a victim's ex-boyfriend, who was later arrested. 

But despite this, Paul noted that homicides in the city are down in 2019, with the current count almost 40 percent below where the city was at this time last year. However, the murder rate in Baton Rouge has historically been well above the average for cities of its size. 

City officials hope, though, that the meeting on Tuesday, which drew well over 200 residents from across the parish, will not be without further focus on these issues. 

"This didn’t happen overnight, it’s not going to get fixed overnight," said East Baton Rouge Metro Councilwoman Donna Collins-Lewis. "If we don’t stick with this for the long haul, we’re just going to be putting a band-aid on a sore."

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