The headline about New Orleans that reverberated worldwide on Sunday (Nov. 27) — 1 dead, 9 wounded in mass shooting on Bourbon Street — was especially jarring to those who survived a similar shooting on the same French Quarter street just 29 months earlier.
“This is terrible news,” said Amy Matthews, the Australian tourist seriously wounded in the June 29, 2014, Bourbon Street gun battle that also left one dead and nine wounded.
“My thoughts are with the victims, their families and all the innocent people that this will also affect,” Matthews said when reached after the new shooting Sunday.
Matthews, 23, was a bystander who nearly lost her life in the 2014 shooting on Bourbon Street. She survived a gunshot through her cheek and mouth that fractured her upper palate and destroyed all but 10 of her teeth. Had the bullet’s trajectory been more than an inch or two different, the gunshot could have been fatal.
Matthews returned to New Orleans in January to testify at the trial of Trung Le, who was convicted of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter, and sentenced to 60 years by Criminal District Judge Byron C. Williams. The second gunman involved in that 2014 shooting has not been caught.
Speaking Sunday from her home near Perth, Matthews said she was not entirely surprised that tragedy had struck again on the busy street that is New Orleans’ most famous tourist destination.
“I suppose this highlights your national issue with gun laws,” Matthews said. “Legislation needs to be implemented, but I don’t see that in the near future.
“This will keep happening, and it is horrible that people will have to experience what I experienced and still struggle with.”
Australia passed a sweeping gun control package in 1996 after a man used an assault-style rifle to kill 35 people and wound 19 others. The country’s National Firearms Agreement (NFA) included a ban and mandatory buyback of semiautomatic assault rifles like the one used in that mass shooting.
Australian authorities purchased and destroyed more than 650,000 of the newly outlawed weapons by 2001, and cleared out an additional 70,000 handguns during a second buyback effort in 2003. Australia hasn’t had a single mass shooting (defined as five or more victims, not counting the shooter) since.
During her emotional court testimony 10 months ago, Matthews recounted running down Bourbon Street in fear as gunshots popped around her at 2:45 a.m. on June 29, 2014.
“I kept running, because there were more shots ringing out,” she said. “I felt a lot of heat and some pain, then felt warm fluid in my mouth. I spit it out and it was all blood and teeth.”
Matthews was assisted by a Navy corpsman who was among the Bourbon Street revelers. She said she has undergone several surgeries and been diagnosed with post-traumatic disorder.
“It scared me to leave the house for months,” she testified. “I couldn’t work, I couldn’t read, I couldn’t really concentrate on anything but maybe watching TV. I had to be put on medications to help me sleep and to get through the day.”
After expressing her concern for the newest victims of Sunday’s early morning shooting, Matthews added, “Hopefully, the appropriate parties are held responsible.”