2018 has been a busy year for news in Shreveport Bossier. There have been several stories that have dominated the headlines for weeks, if not months. Some of these stories will be talked about well into 2019.

Here's our list of the top 12 stories of the year:

12. I-49 Opens North of Town

October 17th was a big day in our community. The I-49 and I-220 interchange opened to traffic. This project cost about $240 million dollars and took about four years to complete. This will likely be the final stage of I-49 done in our community for many years because funding for the Innercity Connector through Allendale is not yet available and the Federal Highway Administration is continuing the environmental study on this route.

For the first time in a while, Shreveport-Bossier faced actual winter weather conditions. Bitterly cold temps, snowfall, ice and sleet pounded the area. In fact, Shreveport is setting some winter records. The snowfall was record breaking. According to the National Weather Service, Shreveport officially received 1.80  inches of snow. While that may not sound like a lot, it did break a snowfall record set back in 1874!

TSM

The fire at the iconic local church erupted on the morning of December 10th. Dozens of firefighters spent all day battling this blaze. Eyewitnesses say the flames were coming from the back of church near one of youth  centers. Luckily the new main sanctuary was not damaged. 2019 will be a year of rebuilding for the church.

9. Brian Horn Sentence Overturned

The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled convicted murderer Brian Horn deserved a new trial for the murder of 12-year-old Justin Bloxom. The state's high court ruled: "Brian Douglas Horn's rights were violated when his lawyer conceded at the 2014 first-degree murder trial that Horn killed Justin Bloxom in DeSoto Parish. According to the court record, the defense lawyer suggested that jurors find Horn guilty of manslaughter or second-degree murder, neither of which carries a death sentence. Horn objected to this strategy"  the court said. Horn has been removed from death row and is now awaiting a new trial.

8. Mall St. Vincent Murder

A murder suspect is caught after lengthy standoff on Penick Street. Police were called to a home on Penick Street where 34- year-old Dewayne Willie Watkins was barricaded inside. Watkins and police engaged in a standoff for nearly six hours. Eventually officers arrested Watkins on two counts of second degree murder in the deaths of Heather King Jose and Kelly Jose. The couple tried to help Watkins when he approached them outside of Mall St. Vincent and asked to use their cell phone. They ended up giving him a ride and he allegedly robbed them and murdered them.

7. Queensborough Tornado

The Queensborough neighborhood was hit hard by tornadoes back in the spring. Several local leaders were upset by the lack of response to this area after the storms roared through. Many residents are still trying to pick up the pieces and repair their properties damaged during this storm.

6. Crime in Shreveport and Medical Leave of Chief Alan Crump

This has been a story all year. Though a detailed inspection of the stats will show crime is down from a year ago, the perception in the community is that crime is still a major problem. Much of the blame was placed on Police Chief Alan Crump. Shortly after the primary election, Crump decided to retire, but then changed his tune and informed Mayor Tyler he was going to take medical leave. He will be on medical leave at least until the middle of March.

5. Christ Fit Gym Logo on Football Field

What a mess this turned out to be. The Christ Fit Gym in Bossier paid for a sponsorship for high school football games which included a logo on the field. But that logo was covered up because it included a cross and the word "Christ". It also included reference to a bible verse. The Bossier Parish School Board met in executive session and decided to put the logo of Christ Fit Gym back on the football field at Benton High School.

4. Bossier School Board Fight Over Religion

Bossier school leaders announced earlier in the year some changes have been made in schools to comply with the federal court rulings on separation of church and state.

The parish is implementing mandatory in-service training for all administrators, teachers and coaches on the policies and underlying laws. The statement from the parish says

We trust these affirmative steps will resolve the current federal court matter in short order so that precious taxpayer funds can be spent on continuing to improve the quality of educational services provided to students rather than on potentially expensive litigation.

3. Ochsner Takeover at University Health

After more than a year of negotiating, Ochsner Health systems agreed to takeover management and operations at University Health Hospital in Shreveport and the public hospital in Monroe. The takeover happened on October 1st with the goal of stabilizing operations at the safety-net hospitals and LSU Medical School in Shreveport.

2. Bossier Water Troubles

The story about water in Bossier is something we will be talking about well into 2019. The Louisiana Department of Health has announced that water samples taken from Bossier City have tested positive for brain eating amoeba. Several samples taken from the southern part of Bossier tested positive for the parasite.The city conducted a chlorine flush of its water distribution system. But this case has garnered the attention of consumer watchdog, Erin Brockovich who has sent people to town to take a closer look at the water system here.
This was the talk around our region for most of the year. Several challengers stepped in to try to unseat incumbent Ollie Tyler, but it was a newcomer to politics, Adrian Perkins who led in the primary and easily defeated Tyler in the general election. Perkins is now moving into city hall and beginning the process of putting his team together. This will obviously be a story we will watch closely during 2019.