NEW ORLEANS (AP) — New Orleans police hope a $10,000 reward and blurry surveillance camera images will lead to arrests in a Mother’s Day shooting that wounded 19 people and showed again how far the city has to go to shake a persistent culture of violence that belies the city’s festive image.
Video released early Monday shows the crowd suddenly scattering in all directions, with some falling to the ground after the shooting on Sunday. They appear to be running from a man in a white T-shirt and dark pants who turns and runs out of the picture.
A medical student who witnessed the shooting said the gunman appeared to be firing in a controlled manner, but it wasn’t clear if he was trying to hit specific people. Jarrat Pytell said he was walking with friends near the parade route when the crowd suddenly began to break up.
“I saw the guy on the corner, his arm extended, firing into the crowd,” Pytell said Monday.
“He was obviously pointing in a specific direction he wasn’t swinging the gun wildly,” Pytell said.
Pytell said he wouldn’t recognize the gunman’s face but that his attire matched the images released by police.
Three people remained in critical condition Monday. Authorities said it appeared that nobody suffered life-threatening wounds and most had been discharged from the hospital. Ten men, seven women and two 10-year-old children were wounded. The children suffered only graze wounds.
Pytell said he helped a woman with a serious arm fracture — he wasn’t sure if it was caused by a bullet or a fall — and others including a man who was bleeding seriously from an apparent bullet wound.
Pytell said he and a friend had taken refuge in a ditch when the shooting broke out. The shooting was over quickly and he got only a quick look at the gunman.
Police believe more than one gun was fired in the burst of Sunday afternoon violence — the latest to flare up around a celebration this year — and they have vowed to swiftly track down those responsible. Detectives were conducting interviews, collecting any surveillance video they could find and gathering evidence from the scene. Cellphone video taken in the aftermath of the shooting shows victims lying on the ground, blood on the pavement and others bending over to comfort them.
It’s not the first time gunfire has shattered a festive mood in the city this year. Five people were wounded in January after a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade, and four were wounded in a shooting in the French Quarter in the days leading up to Mardi Gras. Two teens were arrested in connection with the MLK shootings; three men were arrested and charged in the Mardi Gras shootings.
“The specialness of the day doesn’t appear to interrupt the relentless drumbeat of violence,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said at a news conference outside a hospital where victims were being treated Sunday night.
Mary Beth Romig, a spokeswoman for the FBI in New Orleans, characterized the shooting as street violence.