Benny’s owner on road-rage killing: ‘Where are you safe anymore in Baton Rouge?’

Though he was busy at a trade show in Dallas, Benny’s Car Wash owner Justin Alford was still reeling today from reports of Monday night’s road-rage killing in the rear parking lot of his B-Quick store in the 4100 block of Perkins Road.

“This just has to stop,” Alford says. “Speaking as a business owner, give us some direction. We’ll be willing to support anything but we have to stop this violence. It’s killing our community.”

Baton Rouge police say 19-year-old Jarmal Jackson fatally shot 40-year-old Joseph Tatney around 7 p.m. in the B-Quick parking lot in what appears to have been an act of self-defense, following a road-rage incident that began minutes earlier on the highway.

Though the shooting didn’t injure any bystanders, Alford says it’s difficult, as a business owner, to protect your customers and employees when such acts of violence occur in a busy parking lot in daylight with multiple police officers on site.

“We have police at our C-store all the time and there were three on the lot when this happened,” he says. “The fire station is right next door, we have more lights than you can shake a stick at and it was daylight anyway. So what do you do? What more can you do? I don’t know. It’s so frustrating and we’re looking for answers.”

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore says Monday’s killing was “highly unusual.” But this is shaping up to be an extremely violent year in Baton Rouge, as elsewhere around the country.

As Alford points out, late last month, two employees of the IHOP near Siegen Lane were shot, one fatally, in the parking lot outside the busy restaurant while on their lunch break.

On Memorial Day, a 1-year-old girl was killed in the crossfire during a gunbattle that erupted poolside at the Fairview Apartments on College Drive.

“Where are you safe anymore in Baton Rouge?” Alford says.

According to a recent report in The Advocate, law enforcement has recorded at least 65 homicides parishwide since Jan. 1, most of them within city limits. That’s a 60% increase over the same time last year, and more homicides recorded than in all of 2016.

“We’ve got to get a handle on it,” Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul reportedly told the paper. “As a community, when are we going to come together and decide enough is enough?”

Those are the same questions Alford is asking, too. When he returns from his trip, he says he wants to sit down with business leaders and figure out a way to engage the business community in doing what law enforcement and elected officials have so far been unable to do.

“I want to call Adam (Knapp) with the chamber) and say, ‘what can we do?’” he says. “It’s going to take a bunch of us.”