Bossier’s top stories of 2018 Pt. 2

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First responders battled a fire at First Bossier church in early December that severely damaged roughly half of their campus. (Sean Green/Press-Tribune)

With the start of a new year, the Bossier Press-Tribune is taking a brief look back to showcase the major news stories of 2018. It was quite an eventful year with controversies, progressive moves, elections and more, all shaping Bossier Parish moving into 2019. You can read a summary of the stories and how they developed as compiled by BPT staff from the past year. Part 1 is available here.

Brain eating amoeba stirs concern over water quality

A positive result for Naegleria fowleri, also known as brain-eating amoeba, on a test of the south Bossier City water system spurred outrage and fears that gained national attention.

Robert Bowcock with Integrated Resource Management, held a public meeting Tuesday night at the VFW Hall on Jeter Street in Bossier City to share his insight on the city’s water situation and answer the community’s questions. (Stacey Tinsley/Press-Tribune)

In late September, the Sligo Water System in south Bossier Parish tested positive for the amoeba. The positive water sample came from a valve that connects Sligo to the Bossier City water system.

In mid-October, the city found a positive sample in the southern portion of the city and began a chlorine burn according to DHH guidelines.

Three other water systems — the Town of Benton, Cypress Black Bayou, and Country Place Subdivision — also performed the chlorine flush because they buy water from Bossier City.

“After the announcement that the amoeba had been found in the Sligo water system, the City made the decision to move forward with a Chlorine cleanse that had originally been scheduled for Bossier City for next year. Shortly after that decision was made, while gearing up to switch disinfectants, is when we received the disturbing results that one of five samples taken by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals tested positive for the presence of the amoeba,” Bossier City Public Information Officer Traci Landry told the Press-Tribune in October.

However, the response led environmental activist Erin Brockovich to take aim at Bossier City for its water quality.

The legal clerk who gained national fame, sparking a movie dramatizing her involvement in a lawsuit against Pacific Gas and Electric Company, has repeatedly said Bossier City residents are being lied to about the quality and safety of their water in several Facebook posts.

That led to her sending a water expert, Robert Bowcock with Integrated Resource Management, to hold a public meeting in November. 

“The purpose of the meeting is to properly inform everyone what happened, what’s going on, and how the city can prevent this from happening again,” said Bowcock. “You’re the consumers, these are your drinking water systems. And it is important that you start to understand that and take ownership and help your community’s elected officials make those decisions for you.”

The chlorine burn ended in mid-December.

Shooting death of airman stirs emotions, fears

The shooting death of a Barksdale Air Force Base airman amid a rash of vehicle burglaries left a north Bossier City neighborhood shaken and saw an outpouring of mourning and anger.

Two teens — Jareona Crosby, 17, and a 15-year-old male juvenile — were arrested by the Bossier City Police Department’s Violent Crimes Unit on Oct. 1 for second-degree murder in the shooting death of TSgt. Joshua Kidd that occurred in the early morning hours of Sept. 25.

TSgt. Kidd had been enlisted in the US Air Force for 10 years. Barksdale Air Force base was Kidd’s fourth assignment, he was previously stationed in Korea and Germany. He leaves behind a wife and two-year-old son.

More than 300 people donated to the family online raising over $30,000 dollars in a day. The Green Acres Place neighborhood also lined the main street with flags in honor of Kidd and a prayer vigil was held Thursday, Sept. 27 at Airline Baptist Church. A memorial flag pole was raised in the neighborhood for Kidd in late 2018. 

Sheriff Julian Whittington and Bossier Police Chief Shane McWilliams unveiled the L.O.C. campaign at a special meeting Thursday night at the Viking Drive Substation in Bossier City. (Stacey Tinsley/Press-Tribune)

North Bossier isn’t known for violent crimes or thefts, although there was a rash of vehicle burglaries reported earlier this year in the Lakewood Subdivision in north Bossier right outside city limits. Kidd’s death was the first homicide of 2018 in Bossier City.

When asked if the BCPD is concerned that crime may be spreading to the northern part of the city, or if there are any hotspots for vehicle burglaries in the city, City Spokesperson Traci Landry said it is a mobile crime and one of opportunity.

“Criminals are opportunistic and they are mobile. As far as ‘hot spots’ or an uptick in numbers, what we and police agencies across the nation see when it comes to vehicle burglaries is that it is a crime of opportunity. Criminals look for open car doors. If it’s not an easy target, they move on to the next vehicle,” she said.

There were 277 vehicle burglaries from January to August 2018. That is down from the same time during 2017 where there were 333. However, motor vehicle thefts have increased from January to August 2018 to 199, from 184 in the same time last year.

The increase in activity and response from the public caused the BCPD and Bossier Sheriff’s Office to launch the LOC campaign aimed at pushing people to start locking their car doors, as well as observe their surroundings and make sure people call the police if they see something suspicious in their neighborhood.

Benton teacher arrested for multiple accounts of sexual crimes

A Benton Elementary School teacher was arrested in mid October and later indicted on 12 sexual crimes charges, some believed to have involved his own students.

Aubrey Perry Norcross, age 47, was indicted for one count of first degree rape, one count of video voyeurism, eight counts of molestation of a juvenile, and two counts of indecent behavior with a juvenile. All of the victims are under the age of 12 and each crime is a separate victim.

Bossier Schools Superintendent Scott Smith speaks at a community meeting at Benton High School to give parents tips on how to communicate with their child regarding sexual abuse and answer questions. (Stacey Tinsley/Press-Tribune)

The public expressed outrage that an incident like this could occur and the Bossier Parish School Board immediately responded by working with the sheriff’s office to identify as many victims as possible. 

The school system also hired an outside crisis management team to assist school personnel with assessing and counseling students and families affected by the fallout from the incident. The system also hosted a community meeting on Oct. 24 to give parents tips on how to communicate with their child regarding sexual abuse and answer questions that they might have.

“As superintendent of the Bossier Parish school system, adistrict that is known for excellence and a district where you have entrusted in our care the 23,000 plus children that our in our school system, I can personally assure you that we would have never looked the other way or not acted in any form knowing that there was any kind of sexual misconduct. No sexual misconduct, before now, has been reported to us. We would have acted very very quickly. That’s our nature in the Bossier Parish school system,” said Superintendent Scott Smith.

Overnight tornado kills child, damages several businesses

An EF-1 tornado ripped through parts of Bossier City and Parish, killing a child during the early morning hours of April 14.

Carli Ortiz was only 20 months old when she was killed by a tree that fell on the recreational vehicle in which she was sleeping in the Hill Crest Mobile Home & RV Park

An EF-1 tornado ripped through Bossier City during the early morning hours of April 14, knocking down part of a strip mall on the north side of Pierre Bossier Mall. (Amanda Simmons/Press-Tribune)

Much of the storm’s damage was just north of I-20 near the Red Chute area. In particular, residents in Country Place subdivision in the Haughton had numerous downed trees on the ground and on houses, as well as those areas to the east towards Highway 157 in Princeton.

The tornado touched down just west of 3132 along Dixie Boulevard in Shreveport where its path paralleled I-20, continuing northeast into downtown Shreveport before crossing the Red River into downtown Bossier City.

The tornado uprooted a number of trees and broke several large branches between Bossier High School and I-20. The tornado strengthened near the Heart of Bossier shopping center and Benton Road where it uprooted several trees as it headed east-northeast towards Pierre Bossier Mall. It uprooted or snapped several trees along the south side of the mall and I-20 in this area. The tornado was able to knock down the top half of the east-facing wall of a strip mall on the north side of Pierre Bossier Mall before heading towards the Red Chute area along Hwy. 80. 

First Bossier fire severely damages church campus

An early morning three-alarm fire severely damaged the eastern portion of the First Bossier Baptist Church campus on Dec. 10.

A total of 30 units from both Bossier City and Shreveport fire departments had a day-long battle to extinguish the flames and hot spots.

The scene was watched by the community from across the street, with many church members in tears, praying, hugging Pastor Brad Jurkovich for comfort.

By the following Sunday, the congregation’s demeanor seemed hopeful and ready to start the process of rebuilding their church.

“Thank you First Baptist Bossier family for being so strong, so thankful, and so passionate through a very challenging week. I just feel like right now we have a generational moment as a church. And how we respond to these first seven days, how we respond to the next seven months, will really set a tone for the future of this ministry,” Jurkovich said.

Based on fire patterns at the scene, investigators determined that the fire was caused by an uninterruptible power supply/battery backup of a computer and began in an office space near Faith Chapel, the church’s original sanctuary, before spreading to the attic and other buildings on the property.

The fire was contained to the eastern portion of the property, but several buildings including Faith Chapel and a daycare wing sustained heavy damage. Jurkovich estimated earlier last week that roughly 50 percent of the campus had been damaged.

Bossier City Fire Chief Brad Zagone said the fire was the worst he has seen in his 25 years with the Bossier City Fire Department.

“No loss of life is huge,” Jurkovich said. “We just thank God for his grace. Buildings can be rebuilt; lives are forever. We just need to understand that.”

He added that the church is “in this together” and that they would rebuild. “There are going to be some incredible days ahead,” Jurkovich said.

“Whatever logistics we have to work through, whatever we have to deal with, I’m telling you that God, who gave his son Jesus for us, can handle all of this. But we’ve got to walk in unity. We have to be together…I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, but I believe this is one of those moments that is going to  bring our church closer together. And that’s a good thing.”