Info on gunmen developing ‘at a good flow’
With few new details to provide about Sunday’s shooting on Bourbon Street that injured 10 people, Mayor Mitch Landrieu on Tuesday called on state and federal officials to provide New Orleans with additional resources to help stamp out violence, including 100 state troopers on long-term assignment to patrol the city.
That request was met with a cool response from Gov. Bobby Jindal, who pledged a typical deployment over the July 4 weekend for Essence Festival but made no promises beyond that.
State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson said he would meet with New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas on Wednesday to discuss providing a contingent of troopers to augment the NOPD through Labor Day.
Landrieu requested the additional manpower during a news conference called to address the New Orleans Police Department’s response to the shooting, which occurred about 2:45 a.m. Sunday in the 700 block of Bourbon, near Orleans Street.
Serpas said that while investigators continue to develop new leads, the public’s help is still needed in identifying the gunmen. He offered few other details beyond saying that “we are developing information at a good flow.”
Although Serpas said the number of NOPD officers who were on patrol Sunday morning in and near the French Quarter was adequate, the mayor said the city needs an extra hand from state and federal officials.
Nine million people visit New Orleans each year, Landrieu said, and “the State Police presence is warranted.”
In a letter to the governor, Landrieu wrote that more than half of all state tax revenue generated by travel and tourism comes from visitors to New Orleans.
“They pay taxes. Most of that tax goes to the state,” Landrieu said. “What we need is the state of Louisiana to take responsibility for that which is theirs.”
In his letter, Landrieu requested the 100 state troopers to patrol prime tourist areas, such as the Quarter, and parts of the interstate to free NOPD officers to patrol other neighborhoods.
Landrieu previously made a similar request, to no avail, during his 2012 State of the City address.
In addition to the request for state troopers, the mayor also asked for more local probation officers, more state money for the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s and Public Defender’s offices, more money for mental health and substance abuse programs and reallocation of a portion of the hotel-motel tax on future hotel developments and a rededication to the city of one cent of the hotel-motel tax that now goes to the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
“It’s time for the tourism industry to contribute more to funding public safety needs in the city of New Orleans,” Landrieu wrote to Jindal.
“We will continue to work with city officials on potential long-term options,” the governor replied in a prepared statement. “We want to ensure New Orleans is the best place to live, visit and raise a family. That is why we have already engaged in discussions with the mayor and other city officials about ways the state can help supplement city efforts to make the city safer.”
Landrieu didn’t stop with making requests of Baton Rouge.
He said during Tuesday’s news conference that the federal government needs to “get back in the business of fighting crime on the streets of America,” and in a letter to the White House, he urged President Barack Obama to “reinvigorate the federal COPS program,” among other appeals.
“The United States of America would never, never send a general or soldiers into war without the resources they need to get the job done, and they would never leave anybody behind, but that is exactly what is happening on domestic soil,” Landrieu said during the news conference.
In the mid-1990s, a $3.4 million federal grant allowed then-Police Superintendent Richard Pennington to begin the Community Oriented Policing Services program, which allowed for the hiring of additional officers and the opening of several substations in high-crime areas.
Funding for those types of programs nationally has been cut from about $1.2 billion a year in the mid-’90s to about $200 million today, Landrieu wrote to the president before asking him and Congress to fund the programs at $4 billion.
Landrieu also requested that Obama deploy a team of federal officers from the DEA, ATF and FBI, along with federal prosecutors, to the city to build cases against and prosecute gangs.
“From 2009-11, the federal government spent nearly $14 billion to build and train police forces in places like Colombia, Mexico, Afghanistan and Iraq. The purpose was laudable — to protect our homeland,” Landrieu wrote. “It is time to bring these resources ‘full circle’ and tap the crime-fighting expertise, technology and resources that have been deployed abroad.”
Landrieu also suggested amending federal laws to allow federal prosecution of the illegal use of a firearm and the deployment of U.S. Park Service police “to protect the many historic and cultural sites in the heavily visited Vieux Carre Historic District.”
“We’re not asking them for more,” Landrieu said of the federal government. “We’re just asking them to do what they’re supposed to be doing.”
For all the requests of additional federal and state resources, Serpas said that Sunday morning’s contingent of 27 officers in the city’s 8th District, which includes the French Quarter, was standard and adequate, even though the police force has lost hundreds of officers in recent years.
While there was no new information about the unknown gunmen, the Police Department provided updated information about the victims, identifying them as:
- A 21-year-old woman from Hammond who remains in the hospital in critical condition.
- A 19-year-old woman from Arkansas who remains in the hospital in stable condition.
- An 18-year-old man from New Orleans who remains in the hospital in stable condition.
- A 35-year-old man from Mississippi who remains in the hospital in stable condition.
- A 21-year-old woman from Australia who remains in the hospital in stable condition.
Victims who have been released from the hospital, and one who never went to the hospital, were:
- A 22-year-old man from Harvey.
- A 22-year-old man from New Orleans.
- A 17-year-old woman from Alabama.
- A 20-year-old woman from Alabama.
- A 39-year-old man from Florida.
According to Serpas, nine officers, including five on horseback, were on Bourbon Street when the shooting happened. Another 10 were assigned to patrol cars throughout the rest of the 8th District, while two narcotics detectives, four plainclothes officers and two detectives also were on duty.
“Of course, we’d all like more. That’s not the issue here,” Serpas said. “The issue is that’s a lot of people given the way we’re able to deploy today.”
No off-duty, uniformed officers were working when the shooting happened, according to City Hall spokesman Tyler Gamble.
Even with additional officers, Landrieu said, there is no guarantee the shooting would not have happened.
A deep-seated culture of violence in parts of New Orleans has resulted in young men regularly brandishing guns in public and opening fire into crowds.
Police asked that anyone who can identify the man contact the 8th District station at (504) 658-6080.
Follow Danny Monteverde on Twitter, @DCMonteverde.