In the early morning hours of 16 September, every parent’s worst nightmare became Paul Rice’s reality.
A knock on his door robbed him of all the dreams and hopes he had for his 21-year-old daughter. Allison Rice, a marketing major at Louisiana State University, was returning from a party when her car was violently riddled with bullets near railroad tracks in the city of Baton Rouge.
The Baton Rouge Police Department believe she was fatally shot while waiting for a train to pass, WAFB reported. Her death has been ruled a homicide — one in more than 77 so far this year in the city with a population of 220,000.
“We can’t really fully wrap our heads around it right now,” Mr Rice told The Independent in a defeated tone three days after his daughter’s death. “We don’t understand why. We can’t fathom why anybody would do this to anyone, much less, a sweet, beautiful, innocent young lady who had her whole life ahead of her, who was loved by so many.”
Mr Rice said police have not received any clues that indicate the attack was targeted as the investigation into the tragedy continues.
“From what we’re understanding, their best call at the moment is it seems to be a wrong place at the wrong time scenario,” he said.
The grieving father said Allison was a very social person and was living her college life fully, but highlighted that she was very careful about her surroundings and always travelled with friends.
“She was not a reckless person by any means. She was very careful, very methodical,” Mr Rice told The Independent.
“She never went alone. You know, she always had a group of friends, both male and female, that always went out together and looked out for each other. Unfortunately, on this one night, she was travelling alone.”
According to local news station WBRZ, a witness heard the train just moments before the shots were fired. By the time police arrived at the scene, Allison had succumbed to her injuries caused by five or six bullet wounds.
Although she was careful to avoid dangerous areas in the city, Allison had to drive through the I-110 and Park Boulevard intersection where her body was found in order to get to her apartment. She was returning home from a gathering in the Mid City area of Baton Rouge.
“There were certain places that she went that, you know, I was never really comfortable with,” Mr Rice said. “There are some bar areas around LSU that are known for different violence, fights and shootings and things like that, but all the kids still flock there, no matter what happened, you know?”
FBI 2020 data shows that Baton Rouge is one of the cities with the highest homicide rates in Louisiana. According to the World Population Review, the city had a total of 83 homicides in 2019 — a murder rate of 33.5 per 100,000, compared to the national homicide rate of 5 murders per 100,000 people.
In the aftermath of Allison’s sudden death, her family has received an outpouring of support from friends and people whose lives she touched, Mr Rice told The Independent.
“If you go through the messages that have been left on Facebook, or the obituary site, that’s out there for her right now, Allie was there for them,” he said.
“There’s one story and I believe, it’s on the obituary site where a girl said, “She sat down at school, on the bathroom floor with me and held me and talked to me for 30 minutes.” You know, that’s the kind of person Allie was.”
Allison, a cheerleader and dance competitor in high school, was set to graduate in May and had been looking into internships to apply for, her father said. A day after her death, a moment of silence was held in honour of Allison’s life during a game at the LSU campus.
In the last few years, Allison had started exploring her life as a young adult and began travelling extensively with her group of college friends. Mr Rice said they had made road trips to North Carolina and had gone canoeing in Mississippi.
While Allison had a very busy social life, her father said she always made the 25-minute drive home to be at every family get-together. She was there for her hometown friends and her little brothers anytime they needed her, Mr Rice said.
“Both of my boys were extremely close with her. They did things together,” he told The Independent. “She would drive over here to come pick up my youngest and, you know, take him out to lunch. With my older son being at LSU, now they had that new bond.”
Mr Rice also recounted how he and his daughter “always sang and danced silly” and how she tried to get him to do TikTok dances.
“You know, some of them did make it public,” he said, laughing slightly. “But I mean, she just always wanted to have fun, but it was responsible fun.”
“My thing with her as she grew up was that we always sang in the truck. We had our little playlist of songs that [she] and I always liked, which, you know, a lot of it was her type of music, but it was the part that I could tolerate.”
Mr Rice is now determined to remind young adults about the random violence that they could be victims of, saying nobody is exempt from experiencing a tragedy.
“To these kids, these young adults; Be careful, be aware of your surroundings, know where you’re going, travel in groups and don’t be alone at that time of night, share rides, be together,” he told The Independent.
He added: “There’s just so much crazy out there right now, and none of us is immune to it. There’s not a family in this community, in this state, in this country, in this world that this could not have happened to.”
“Make sure you don’t have the ‘It’ll never happen to me’ mentality. Because all it takes is a knock on the door at 4.45 in the morning to change your thoughts on that.”
This article was originally published on 19 September