NEW ORLEANS — An 11-year-old boy stood at the center of a 7th Ward intersection Monday evening, surrounded by 200 people, to tell the city how he felt Sunday afternoon when 19 people fell right there, all around him, wounded in a hail of gunfire.
That corner, where North Villere Street meets Frenchmen Street, is “sacred ground now,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said during a community meeting a day after the shooting that scuttled a Mother’s Day second-line parade that had just begin its march through the neighborhood.
“We all came out here to reclaim this spot, to say what happened at this spot does not reflect who the people of New Orleans are,” the mayor said. “It does not reflect who we are as a people, not then, not in the past, not now, not in the future.”
Landrieu was joined by nearly the entire City Council, the police superintendent and other city officials, all encircled by several hundred residents who begged for an end to the violence.
One person held a sign high: “No child should be next,” it read. “Stop the killing.”
A few hours before the gathering, Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas said tips about the gunman or gunmen were already pouring in, thanks to a $10,000 reward and a video that provided a good look at a gunman. And late Monday, the chief said police had secured an arrest warrant for Akein Scott, 19, whom they believe to be the gunman pictured in the video. He said police had served search warrants in three locations Monday, including two different blocks of Frenchmen Street, but they have yet to locate Scott.
“I can assure whoever did this, we know a lot more about you than you think we do,” Serpas said earlier in the day. “My recommendation to you is to ... turn yourself in.”
Court records show Scott was booked last year with illegally possessing a firearm, but the charge was refused by the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office. In March, he was booked with possession of heroin, resisting arrest, illegal carrying of a weapon and possession of a stolen weapon. That charge was refused last month,
While Serpas said Sunday that police were seeking three people in connection with the shooting, he added that it was not yet clear if there was more than one gunman or more than one gun used.
Pending ballistic tests should give an answer to the number of weapons used in the shooting, said Phil Durham, special agent in charge of the New Orleans field office of the ATF. Those tests should also determine if the guns used during Sunday’s shooting were used in other crimes, he said.
Police earlier in the day released a video of the shooting and the stampede that followed.
The footage shows a man leaning against a home at the corner of North Villere and Frenchmen streets as the parade begins to pass. The crowd blossoms as the heart of the celebration makes its way across Frenchmen Street. The man suddenly springs toward the revelers and begins to fire his gun, waving it back and forth.
The crowd scatters, people fall. Nearly two dozen are injured as they run for their lives.
The gunman then bolts from the scene. Police on Sunday said he ran down Frenchmen toward North Claiborne Avenue before he disappeared.
Many of those who were rushed to local hospitals following the gunfire had been released by Monday morning.
Ten men, seven women, a 10-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl were wounded.
Eleven of the injured were brought to Interim LSU Public Hospital on Sunday. By Monday seven of those people had been discharged, said Marvin McGraw, a hospital spokesman. Three people remained in critical condition, and one was in stable condition, he said.
Tulane University Hospital spokeswoman Sarah Balyeat said three other victims were treated at that facility. One was discharged Sunday, the second was released Monday and a third person remained hospitalized in fair condition, Balyeat said.
Neither McGraw nor Balyeat were able to specify the types of injuries each person suffered because of health privacy laws.
One of those struck by a bullet was Deborah “Big Red” Cotton, a writer for the Gambit, who was covering the Original Big 7 Social Aid and Pleasure Club’s second-line. Cotton is a longtime chronicler of social aid and pleasure clubs and a vocal defender of their traditions.
She was in “guarded but stable” condition following the shooting and remained hospitalized on Monday.
On Monday it still was not clear what led to the shooting.
Serpas said detectives did not immediately know if there was an intended target in the crowd. Asked if investigators believe the action might be gang-related, Serpas said that has not been ruled out.
On Monday, police fanned out into the neighborhood once again in an effort to search for evidence, a standard procedure, Serpas said.
Councilwoman Susan Guidry, who leads the council’s Criminal Justice Committee, has asked the Landrieu administration to give a full overview of the mayor’s NOLA for Life murder-reduction strategy at the next committee meeting on May 22 at 2 p.m.
“Putting a stop to the endless violence and bloodshed on our streets must always be the top priority for us as a city, and so the Criminal Justice Committee will be looking closely at whether NOLA for Life is achieving its purposes,” Guidry said in a prepared statement.
“These shootings tear apart families and communities and they must stop,” said Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell. “We as officials can only do so much. It’s going to take the community banding together to put an end to this culture of violence.”
City leaders organized Monday’s rally for the community to come together — black and white, young and old, 7th Ward and beyond — to reflect on Sunday’s mass shooting and what it means for a city already awash in senseless violence.
Landrieu said the bloodshed the day before was a symptom of a much deeper problem.
He mentioned children — babies in some cases — gunned down in recent years, caught in the crossfire of trifling squabbles.
Officials were quick on Monday to describe the social aid and pleasure clubs that host the second lines as cherished community treasures.
The clubs have taken some flak over the years for violence that has flared up along or near second-lines.
But not this time. This, officials said, was a brazen individual who had no respect for life and did not care whom he injured.
A host of speakers took to the microphone to offer views on what gives rise to New Orleans’ persistent violence: poor education, few decent paying jobs, bad parenting, no mental health or substance abuse programs, no recreational activities, no hope.
There is a generation of lost children taking their aggression out on the streets, some said.
“This (problem) is as deep as the Mississippi is deep,” said Fred Johnson, a community organizer, who spoke Monday. “It’s as murky as the Mississippi is murky.”
Edward Buckner, president of the Original Big 7 Social Aid and Pleasure Club, introduced the 11-year-old boy to the crowd.
The boy was their future, Buckner told the crowd. It was up to them to save boys like him, Buckner said, as trumpeter Kenneth Terry played “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”
Shortly before the gathering ended, Buckner and Landrieu made a vow to return to the corner, likely within the month. This time, they said, they would finish the parade.
Anyone with information about Sunday’s shooting is asked to call Detectives Rayell Johnson and Robert Hurstare at (504) 658-6554 or (504) 658-6050 or Crimestoppers at (504) 822-1111.
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