NEW ORLEANS, La. — At least 10 people were injured when an apparent shootout erupted at a park in New Orleans’ Upper Ninth Ward Sunday evening, according to reports.
Police told the Associated Press that shots were fired into a huge crowd at Bunny Friend Park, but it’s unclear what ignited the gunfight or exactly how many were hurt. Police were on their way to disperse the crowd when the shootout began.
Speaking from the scene, New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Michael Harrison said he believed multiple gunmen had fired into the crowd of more than 300.
“I can’t speak to the condition” of all the victims, he said, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. But he added that no one had died at that point — a few hours after the shooting.
Police spokesman Tyler Gamble told the New York Times “there were two groups that were firing shots back and forth at each other, and then ran off after each other on foot.”
Several hundred people had gathered in Bunny Friend Park after an annual neighborhood parade, the Times-Picayune reported. After they scattered, victims could be seen lying on the sidewalk near the park as emergency responders treated them.
One witness, a nurse who would not give her name, told the Times-Picayune it sounded like New Year’s Eve, when celebratory gunfire rings out around the city.
Gamble said that in addition to parade-goers, a second group had gathered in the park for the filming of a video, according to the AP. He said the video was being made without a permit.
“At the end of the day it’s really hard to police against a bunch of guys who decide to pull out guns and settle disputes with 300 people between them,” said Mayor Mitch Landrieu, according
The parade that preceded the shootout was one of New Orleans’ famous second line parades, festive brass band processions characterized by raucous music, exuberant dancing and occasional violence. In 2013, alleged gang members fired on a second line parade in the Seventh Ward, injuring 19 people including two 10-year-olds.
Big Ed Buckner, leader of the Original Big Seven, which organizes the parade, told NPR that the shooting marred people’s memories of the festivities.
“Everyone is breaking and running, we’re scared to death,” he said. “People are falling on top of people. We had babies out there. We had children — two 10-year-olds [were] hit.”
“People had come to have a beautiful day,” he continued. “Now when they think about Mother’s Day coming, the only thing they’ll be able to think about is May 12, 2013.”
Three years earlier, four people were injured and one woman killed after another 7th Ward second line parade. Four years before that, three people were wounded in a shooting at one of the first second line parades after Hurricane Katrina.
Each spate of violence tends to spur discussion about the culture of the parades. But advocates of the tradition say that the festive gatherings, organized by neighborhood groups and social aid clubs, aren’t hurting the community — they’re enriching it.
“They are what’s good about this city, and add to our rich heritage and culture,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu told the Times-Picayune in 2013. “Just because some ill-advised kids used these as an opportunity to shoot each other, it has to be stated clearly that it’s not the clubs, or anybody that has anything to do with them.”
Just hours after the shooting Sunday, the park that once thronged with revelers was empty and eerily silent. On the street nearby, the windshields of several cars were spiderwebbed with cracks and pocked with bullet holes. Assorted clothing items littered the playground and sports fields, discarded in the chaos that followed the first sound of gunshots.
Among them was a single child’s shoe.