by Allen Powell II
New Orleans bureau
January 24, 2013
New Orleans — Just hours after New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu lamented his city’s violence problem prior to beginning of the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration, five people were shot a few steps from the parade route on Monday afternoon.
The incident was reported shortly after 1 p.m. near Lasalle Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Central City, according to Remi Braden, a police spokeswoman. She said that it appears that a two-door white car drove by a small grocery store in the area and opened fire on five teenagers standing outside of the building.
All five men were wounded, although none of their wounds appear to be life-threatening at this time, Braden said. She did note that there was surveillance video footage from outside of the business that police could release to help identify suspects.
The shooting came after Landrieu discussed the city’s persistent violence problem prior to addressing the crowd on City Hall’s steps for the holiday parade. Landrieu noted that while King would likely be pleased with the country’s push towards true justice, the civil rights icon would be disturbed by the violence that plagues many American cities.
New Orleans ended 2012 with 193 homicides, a slight dip from 2011 but still enough to give the city a per capita homicide rate of about 56 per 100,000 people. By comparison, neighboring Jefferson Parish, which is larger than New Orleans, had a homicide rate of 7.6 per 100,000 residents.
Landrieu said the city’s violence problem stems not just from too many guns on the street but deep-rooted social issues that will take time and a “comprehensive” approach to resolve.
“Making sure that illegal guns are off the street has always been a priority of ours, and we’re going to work as very hard as we can to keep doing that. But it’s not just about that,” Landrieu said. “It’s really about rebuilding community and being committed … to raising our kids the right way. It’s about strong families, it’s about personal responsibilities, it’s about early childhood education, it’s about recreation programs. It’s about all of the above.”
Landrieu added that King would be “mortified” about the levels of violence on the streets of America today.
“This is a huge problem,” he said.
This is not the first time violence has marred a celebration for King, although previous instances were in Jefferson Parish. In 2009 and 2010 there were five shootings in total along the Marrero parade route and in a playground where it concludes. In 2011, there was a homicide reported in a neighborhood near where the parade occurs, but the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office said it was unrelated to the parade. In 2012, deputies arrested a teenager who authorities say came to the parade wearing body armor and carrying a semi-automatic handgun. This year’s parade in Marrero had no reports of violence.