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Mother’s Day shooting in New Orleans tests violent ‘street code’

The suspect in the New Orleans Mother's Day shooting appears to fit the profile of those being targeted by the police anti-gang task force in the city's latest crackdown on violence.

By Staff Writer / May 14, 2013

Bystanders comfort a shooting victim while awaiting EMS at the intersection of Frenchmen and N. Villere Streets after authorities say gunfire injured at least a dozen people, including a child, at a Mother's Day second-line parade in New Orleans on Sunday, May 12.

Lauren McGaughy/The Times-Picayune/AP



New Orleans cops are chasing a man they believe responsible for a mass shooting at a Mother’s Day street party on Sunday. The bloody, panic-stricken scene created by the attack has shocked and mobilized a city long intimidated by violent street codes.

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Surveillance cameras captured images of a gunman firing rapidly into a packed street as some 200 festival-goers screamed and ran in terror. Police, who have identified the shooter as 19-year-old Akein Scott, say he and possibly two other shooters ran away from the area before police, some of whom were dispersed in the crowd, could pursue.

Analysts say preliminary information about Mr. Scott fits the profile of violent members of the community that New Orleans Police are targeting in a new crackdown on violence.

Shooting victims sustained wounds ranging from bullet grazes to more serious internal injuries.

Coming after two festival-related shootings earlier this year in New Orleans, Sunday’s brazen attack drew immediate attention to a struggle in New Orleans and other dense, poor, urban cores against sudden and senseless gun violence. The apparently gang-related attacks broaden the public debate over gun violence that has been focused on the mass shootings in Tucson, Ariz., Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn.

The investigation “is going to be a watershed event” in the city’s struggle against its towering murder rate, says Dee Wood Harper, a Loyola University emeritus professor and co-author, with Kelly Frailing, of the upcoming book, “Fundamentals of Criminology.”

“The brazenness of the Mother’s Day shooting is a trademark of the kinds of things we’ve been having here,” including homicides, daylight killings, and children being hurt or killed in crossfire, Professor Harper says. “It’s a lot about retaliatory killing.”

Over the years, New Orleans has lurched, not always successfully, toward easing pervasive violence in its roughest areas, with people coming together for marches and the city working with local clergy to ameliorate a murder rate climb exacerbated by hurricane Katrina. While the number of people murdered regularly climbs to near 200 per year, other crimes, including burglary and assault, are way down in the Crescent City.

The US Department of Justice has since last summer cooperated  with the New Orleans Police Department to end a pattern of discriminatory policing and excessive force that has driven a wedge between the communities enduring the violence and the police ordered to patrol the streets.

But perhaps more critically, Mayor Mitch Landrieu late last year launched the city’s newest and arguably most dramatic anti-violence effort, in part by opening a slew of new youth centers, but also by reorganizing the city’s anti-gang taskforce under a new philosophy: single out the most violence-prone members of various neighborhoods and use historical arrest data to help build conspiracy charges around them and their crews.

Last week, the new unit announced its largest bust so far, the indictment of 15 members of a violent street gang involved in several street murders, including the killing of a 5-year-old girl last year.


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