(KTAL/KMSS) – From a local connection to the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol to a record-breaking year for homicides in Northwest Louisiana’s most populated city, 2021 started and ended with drama and tragedy. And it all happened as the coronavirus continued to upend life as we know it.
But 2021 also brought some good news. So here is a roundup of some of the biggest stories from around the ArkLaTex as we prepare to ring in 2022.
It started on a sobering note as the City of Shreveport marked its first homicides less than 48 hours in. Eight people were injured, three died during that violent weekend.
Days later, rioters stormed the Capitol on January 6 on a mission to “stop the steal.” One rioter was shot dead, and four others died as a result of the violence that day, including Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick. While that was a national story, there was at least one local connection: Coty Connell of Vivian was there, and was later charged with numerous federal offenses that include assaulting a federal officer.
The events of January 6 led to a second impeachment trial of former President Trump. The impeachment led Louisiana senators to split the party line. John Kennedy voted to acquit while Bill Cassidy voted to impeach.
February brought extreme weather as snow blanketed the area in a double winter blast that caused property and infrastructure damage. Roads, businesses, and schools were closed as the once in a 50-year weather event left homes and hospitals without water.
NOAA says the weather pattern caused $21 billion in damage. According to Texas State Health Services, the winter blast was linked to the deaths of 210 people.
As we moved into March, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the move to Phase 3, easing COVID-19 restrictions as key indicators in the pandemic showed progress toward slowing the spread of the coronavirus. Bars reopened, dining was allowed indoors at restaurants, and capacity limits or worship services were lifted.
April brought national attention to Shreveport again as the Bayou Classic was moved out of New Orleans due to COVID-19, bringing tourists ready to have a good time. It was touted as the first step to the city’s economic recovery post-pandemic. And it was historic, marking the first time it has been played in the Spring and it marked the game’s return to Shreveport. It also turned out to be the most lopsided in the history of the Classic.
To top it all off, that same weekend, dozens of shots rang out a mile from the stadium where so much joy had just taken place. Video of the melee was shared over and over via social media.
Good news came in May as Amazon announced a fulfillment center in Shreveport, a major economic development that the governor’s office said would create 1,000 good-paying jobs with the potential for more jobs to be created indirectly. Hiring for the fulfillment center is expected to begin in the summer of 2022, about three months before the launch of the facility.
Also in May, however, DiamondJacks announced it would not reopen after pandemic restrictions eased. In October, the casino laid off 349 employees and held a liquidation sale, unloading everything from commercial kitchen and laundry equipment to flat-screen TVs and stage lights. The company was banking on voter approval in St. Tammany Parish to allow gambling at a proposed $325 million casino and marina in Slidell.
Los Angeles-based Peninsula Pacific Entertainment – also known as P2E – lost that bet in December. Now, they have until February 9, 2022, to reopen in Bossier City or relinquish their license.
Summer brought another wave of tragedy as 22-year-old Katherine Parker’s body was found in Shreveport’s Duck Pond. Her 21-year-old boyfriend is charged with her death. Lane Mangum drowned in a boating accident at the Lake Bistineau Bridge after his boat capsized. Then, in July, Shamia Little was taken at gunpoint from a local park. The teen girl’s body was found blocks away. Her killer or killers have not been brought to justice.
Law enforcement mourned the loss of Doyline Police Officer Billy Collins, Jr. after he was killed in the line of duty.
COVID-19 made a resurgence as the delta variant spread rapidly, easily surpassing the number of cases recorded in previous surges. Masking and social distancing became the norm again, and the virus claimed another 1,550 lives in Louisiana.
Tragedy at Cross Lake left a family and the whole community shocked when Ureka Black allegedly threw two of her children off the bridge and into the lake. Another child was found unharmed.
LSU Health Shreveport grad Haley Arcenueax lifted off into space on the world’s first civilian space flight in September.
Gun violence turned out to be an unfortunate theme throughout the year. Two deadly shootings at Grambling University in October, one at homecoming and another four days later, raised concerns on campus. Two of the victims in those shootings were from Shreveport.
The Louisiana State Fair was also impacted by gun violence when shots rang out in early November, leaving a local teen shot in the stomach.
Sports betting finally came to Louisiana after many years of proposed legislation. The first casinos in Louisiana went online in November, including two in NWLA, raking in more than $5.6 million in revenue on more than $27 million in wagers.
COVID took its toll on local health care workers, too. Respiratory therapist Byron Bolanos found himself on the other side of the bedrail when he became so critically ill with COVID-19 that he needed a double lung transplant. After a heartfelt ‘Warrior Walk’ sendoff in June, Bolanos got his life-saving transplant in July and was discharged from the hospital in early December.
Voters in Shreveport said no to four out of five bond proposals in a December vote, passing only a $70 million bond for improvements to the city’s police and fire services.
The year ended with a statistic that no one wants to see: the long-standing Shreveport record of 86 homicides from 1993 surpassed with the death of an assault victim on December 18. The city has recorded at least six more homicides since then.
As the year drew to a close, Texarkana made national headlines when fish appeared to rain from the sky. While it’s not an unheard-of phenomenon, it certainly left residents scratching their heads and covering their noses as the unseasonably warm temperatures ripened the hapless fish.
Whatever happens, we are looking at 2022 with hopes that the coming year brings more good news than ever.