As many as 400 people came out for the second-line procession — a boisterous New Orleans tradition — though only half that many were in the immediate vicinity of the shooting, Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas said. Officers were interspersed with the marchers, which is routine for such events.
Second-line parades are loose processions in which people dance down the street, often following behind a brass band. They can be planned events or impromptu offshoots of other celebrations. They trace their origins to the city’s famous jazz funerals.
Outside the hospital Sunday night, Leonard Temple became teary as he talked about a friend who was in surgery after being shot three times during the parade. Temple was told the man was hit while trying to push his own daughter out of the way.
“People were just hanging out. We were just chilling. And this happened. Bad things always happen to good people,” said Temple, who was at the parade but didn’t see the shootings.
A social club called The Original Big 7 organized Sunday’s event. The group was founded in 1996 at the Saint Bernard housing projects, according to its MySpace page.
The neighborhood where the shooting happened is a mix of low-income and middle-class row houses, some boarded up. As of last year, the 7th Ward’s population was about 60 percent of its pre-Hurricane Katrina level.
The crime scene was about 1.5 miles (2.41 kilometers) from the heart of the French Quarter and near the Treme neighborhood, which has been the centerpiece for the HBO TV series “Treme.”
Sunday’s violence comes at a time when the city is struggling to pay for tens of millions of dollars required under federal consent decrees to reform the police department and the city jail. The agreement to reform the police department came after a scathing Justice Department report in 2011 said the city’s officers have often used deadly force without justification, made unconstitutional arrests and engaged in racial profiling. A series of criminal investigations focused on a string of police shootings in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The mayor initially backed the police reform but is trying to put the brakes on the plans, saying the city can’t afford to spend millions required under the two agreements.
Shootings at parades and neighborhood celebrations have become more common in recent years as the city has struggled with street crime, sometimes gang-related.
But police vowed to solve Sunday’s shooting. Serpas said it wasn’t clear if particular people in the second line were targeted, or if the shots were fired at random.
“We’ll get them. We have good resources in this neighborhood,” Serpas said.