2017 Year In Review: The biggest stories from around the capital region

2017 Year In Review: The biggest stories from around the capital region

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - As 2017 comes to an end we look back at the year's biggest news stories in the capital area.

Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome takes office

Former Democratic State Senator Sharon Weston Broome narrowly defeated State Senator Bodi White in the Dec.10, 2016, runoff election. Weston-Broome won by less than 5,000 votes and replaced outgoing Democratic Mayor-President Kip Holden, who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2015.

Weston-Broome became the first elected female African American Mayor-President of East Baton Rouge Parish when she was sworn in on January 2.

Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg visits Baton Rouge

In February, the multi-billionaire who created the social media giant Facebook while at Harvard University, visited the capital city during a four-state tour. Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan made a surprise visit to Smokin' Aces BBQ on Government St. The restaurant's owner, Jeff Herman, said the couple sampled ribs, brisket, chicken, and boudin balls. Zuckerberg also took time to talk and pose for photos with some fellow patrons. Zuckerberg and Chan experienced a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans the next day with their young child.

Metro Council decides to outfit the Baton Rouge Police Department with body cameras

In the months following the Alton Sterling shooting and the Baton Rouge police ambush shooting, Metro Council members decided on April 26 to use $2 million from the city's general fund to buy body cameras for the city's police department. At the time, then Chief Carl Dabadie said he had been trying to buy the cameras for the department for the last three years.

DOJ decides not to charge officers involved in Alton Sterling shooting

Almost 10 months after the officer-involved shooting that sparked protests across the city and the country, the decision that Officer Blane Salamoni and Officer Howie Lake II would not face federal charges for the July 5, 2016, shooting death of Alton Sterling was leaked to the Washington Post. The next day, federal officials made the official announcement at press conference in Baton Rouge.

The case was turned over to Attorney General Jeff Landry's Office who is still investigating whether Salamoni and Lake should face charges.

Mike Pence visits Baton Rouge

Vice President Mike Pence landed in Baton Rouge on May 24 for a "listening session" with business leaders and to make remarks.

Congressman Garret Graves was on the plane with VP Pence. Both were greeted at the airport by Gov. John Bel Edwards and Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome.

Pence made a stop in Denham Springs to visit with a couple that was impacted by the August flooding. After the visit, VP Pence went to Cajun Industries in Port Allen.

LSU baseball

With a colorful cast of players, that included soon-to-be major league players and some major league hairdos, the LSU Tigers gave fans an entertaining season. The Tigers dominated during the regular season and made it to the College World Series for the first time since to 2015. Unfortunately, the Tigers fell to the Florida Gators in the second game of the College World Series Finals.

2017 Year In Review: Louisiana Sports

New Mike the Tiger

Fans were saddened at the end of 2016 when Mike VI died of cancer after holding the spot of LSU's famed mascot for less than 10 years. But on August 22, LSU welcomed 11-month Bengal-Tiger cub Harvey as Mike VII.

Tony the Tiger dies

On October 16, Tony The Tiger died after calling the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete home since 2001. The truck stop owners held a candlelight vigil for him the next day.

Coach O's first full year as LSU head football coach

In his first full year as head coach of the LSU football team, Louisiana native Ed Orgeron coached the Tigers to an overall 9-3 record (an SEC record of 6-2) and an appearance in Citrus Bowl. Coach O was also named the local spokesperson for Raising Cane's. Oregeron was named permanent head coach of the Tigers on November 26, 2016, after a successful stint as the interim head coach following the firing of longtime coach Les Miles.

While LSU earned a bowl game appearance for the 17th consecutive year, the Tigers suffered some embarrassing moments, a 30 point loss to SEC rival Mississippi State and a humiliating home defeat to unranked Troy in its homecoming game. LSU also dropped its annual rivalry game to Alabama for the sixth year in a row.

Hopefully, 2018 will be a better year for the Tigers starting with a New Year's Day victory against Notre Dame in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla.

Cajun Navy helps those with Hurricane Harvey

The Cajun Navy, a volunteer group based out of Louisiana, has been out in force in Texas, rescuing people from floodwater. 9News Kiran Chawla was in Orange, Texas as members of the Cajun Navy conducted rescues in East Texas. Those who couldn't join in rescue missions donated supplies.

Maxwell Gruver dies in hazing incident

Phi Delta Theta fraternity Maxwell Gruver, 18, of Roswell, Georgia, died of alcohol poisoning after an alleged hazing incident on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017.

Ten individuals were arrested in connection with Gruver's death on the charge of hazing. One individual was also charged with negligent homicide.

Some Saints fans upset over national anthem protests burn memorabilia

Some of the New Orleans Saints players chose to sit down during the national anthem on Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers, causing some fans to boycott the team.

Protests ballooned during that weekend in the wake of President Donald Trump's criticism of players who protest during the national anthem.

Raising Cane's donates $1 million to Southern University

Raising Cane's presented Southern University with a $1 million donation on October 17 during an announcement of a partnership between the university and the Baton Rouge-based chicken finger chain. The donated money will go to funding the university's academic and athletic programs as well as the Human Jukebox Band.  A portion of the donation includes an endowed academic scholarship.

Baton Rouge's murder rate soars 

Just eight months into 2017, East Baton Rouge Parish surpassed the number of murders for all of 2016. There were 61 documented murders in 2016. In a two hour period on one night in September 2017, Baton Rouge police responded to five shootings, leaving two dead and four injured. So far, there have been 119 homicides in 2017. Reducing the number of murders in the capital city will likely be a top priority for new Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul, who takes the position on January 1, 2018.

Two accused serial killers plague Baton Rouge 

Kenneth Gleason was arrested on September 19, 2017. He is accused of killing Bruce Cofield and Donald Smart and faces additional attempted murder charges. Gleason allegedly shot Smart ten times outside of Louie's Café, where Smart had worked as a dishwasher for years.

Authorities have said they believe the victims were possibly targeted because they were black.

RELATED STORIES: Timeline of events surrounding accused shooter Kenneth Gleason

Ryan Sharpe, 36, the suspect in the shooting of four men in East Feliciana and East Baton Rouge Parishes was arrested on Wednesday, Oct. 11. Sharpe allegedly confessed to killing three men and seriously wounding another. However, he did not tell investigators his motive.

Donna Britt announces she is battling ALS

On July 27, in her 36th year at WAFB, longtime news anchor Donna Britt announced she had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. Donna has no plans of giving up on her life's work and plans "to continue working until the quality of my work suffers," she said. On September 12, Senator John Kennedy mentioned Donna Britt and Steve Gleason in his speech on the Senate floor about ALS.

Also in 2017, LSU's Speech Language and Hearing Clinic began recording Donna's voice using the ModelTalker software in an effort to persevere Donna's voice long after she stops anchoring WAFB's evening newscasts.   

On October 1, WAFB partnered with John Folse to hold a fundraiser in honor of Donna. All of the proceeds, over $32,000, were donated to the ALS Association of Louisiana and Mississippi. Later that month, Donna moved from anchoring the 10 pm newscast to anchoring the 6 pm newscast in order to spend more time with her family.

Trump visits Lake Charles

On September 2, President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump traveled to areas most impacted by Hurricane Harvey, including Lake Charles. The Trumps also met with Gov. John Bel Edwards and First Lady Donna Edwards in Lake Charles to discuss Louisiana's effort to help residents in Southwest Louisiana and Texas who were impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

Wilbert Jones freed from prison after nearly 50 years

A Louisiana man who had spent nearly 50 years in prison was freed on November 15 after a judge overturned his conviction in the kidnapping and rape of a nurse.

Walking out of the prison gate, Wilbert Jones embraced his family as a free man. "With God, all things are possible," he said.

Snow falls in Baton Rouge

In the early morning hours of December 8, south Louisiana saw a welcomed but unusual amount of snowfall. Most residents woke up to discover their neighborhoods had been turned into a winter wonderland. The capital area saw around three and a half inches and northern parts of Tangiaphoa Parish saw almost seven inches.

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