Tue. May 28th, 2024

An LSU nursing student visiting from Louisiana was fatally shot Friday in the Central American country of Belize, according to published reports.

The student was identified as 23-year-old J’Bria Michelle Bowens of Indianapolis. Bowens graduated from Xavier University in May, and according to her Facebook page was continuing her education in New Orleans, pursuing a degree in nursing at the LSU Health Sciences Center.

Bowens, who reportedly was celebrating a birthday with family members on the Belize island of San Pedro, was struck by gunfire outside the Jaguars nightclub in San Pedro’s Central Park, authorities said. She was pronounced dead on arrival at the Dr. Otto Rodriguez San Pedro Polyclinic II, where she was rushed for treatment.

Police Commissioner Chester Williams told 7 News Belize that it appeared Bowens was struck as an unintended target of a gunman who fired indiscriminately with an assault-style rifle toward another person standing by the entrance to the nightclub around 9:27 p.m. Williams said the intended target was believed to be a leading member of a local drug-selling gang and was being sought for questioning. Williams said other people also were taken into custody for questioning.

The local San Pedro Sun reported that the unidentified gunman fired more than a dozen shots into the crowd. No other injuries were reported.

The news outlet said Bowens is the second tourist fatally shot on the tourist-laden lagoon side of San Pedro in the past 3 1/2 years. Virginia cardiologist Dr. Gary Swank was shot to death in June 2019 as part of a double murder for which authorities believed his local fishing tour guide Mario Graniel was the principal target.

The U.S. State Department currently lists a Level 2 travel advisory for Belize, urging “increased caution” due to high levels of violent crime.

Bowens is the second person from New Orleans this month to be killed while vacationing outside the city. Edna Karr High School student Thomas “Paulie” Smith Jr., 16, was fatally shot at a park in Antioch, Calif., while visiting an aunt on Dec. 17.

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By Buffy Gunner

Independent Journalist + Business Owner | Lover of all things true crime. Mantra: Only YOU can be YOU. | Los Angeles Born | buffygunner@illicitdeeds.com

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