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Family, friends mourn over Southern University student allegedly killed by boyfriend

Friends react to Shalya James death
Friends react to Shalya James death
Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 10:42 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - We’re starting to learn more about the victim of a deadly shooting at an apartment complex in Baton Rouge.

The woman was identified as Shayla James, 19, according to the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office.

The shooting happened at The Oliver located in the 4500 block of Burbank Drive Tuesday, Oct. 19.

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EBRSO: Man admitted to shooting, killing 19-year-old girlfriend after argument, victim’s identity released

According to family and friends, James was a sophomore at Southern University and was studying to become a schoolteacher.

Tayezshua Berard said she was best friends with James. She said the two were supposed to go to Southern’s homecoming this weekend.

“You couldn’t get us to separate, like she was always with me,” Berard said. “My mama treated her like she was her daughter, so she became part of the family.”

James’ life was cut short after investigators said her boyfriend, Kenyon Walker, shot her.

According to EBRSO spokeswoman Casey R. Hicks, Walker confessed to shooting James with his handgun and then hiding the gun inside his vehicle.

Arrest records indicate that before the shooting, Walker became angry after the victim expressed that she was dissatisfied with him in their relationship and wanted to be with someone else.

“She didn’t even get to spend time with my baby. She saw my baby one time,” Berard said while fighting back tears.

James’ murder is just the latest and unfortunate example of a growing problem that’s happening in Baton Rouge and across the nation.

According to District Attorney Hillar Moore, this is the deadliest year East Baton Rouge Parish has had on record.

“This year the domestic violence numbers have been awful,” Moore said. “Last year we thought we had a really bad number at 19, and we’re currently at 28 domestic violence homicides. Overall, in the scheme of things, we’re at 118 murders for our parish right now. That’s the biggest number we’ve had. I’ve been here 45 years and that’s the biggest number I’ve ever seen.”

But why is this happening now?

Moore says the pandemic is part of the blame, but he says so many cases go unreported and it’s not easy for a victim to just leave an abusive situation.

In James’ case, her friends said they never saw this coming.

“She had sisters that depended on her, her mother and father they’re devastated. Who would’ve thought this would’ve happened? He didn’t have to take her life,” Berard said.

Berard’s mom, Moneka Angelle, said these are the kind of stories that keep you up at night.

“As a parent, you can barely sleep because you’re worried every time your kids walk outside or every time they go to an event, so then you’re stuck trying to shelter some adult children and you can’t save everyone. You just pray and just hope they return home,” Angelle said.

As for Berard, this has made her come to grips with her own mortality.

“It’s scary knowing that at our age that it’s possible that we could die,” Berard said. “I’m used to hearing all the good stories about how it was back in the day, and it’s nothing like that once we grew up.”

Walker is facing charges in connection to the shooting, including second degree murder and domestic abuse battery.

Here’s a list of domestic violence-related resources:

Butterfly Society - (225) 347-7725

Iris Domestic Violence Shelter - (225) 389-3001

Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence - 1 (888) 411-1333

Family Safe Haven - (225) 239-7880

Family Services of Greater Baton Rouge - (225) 924-0123

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