A gun battle at a New Orleans block party over the weekend has marred what could be another year of record-low homicides in the city.
No one was killed in the shooting – 16 people were wounded – when the two groups opened fire on each other in a crowd of hundreds gathered in a park for a block party and music video shoot. New Orleans police have responded quickly using many of the same strategies they have employed to oversee almost four consecutive years of a decline in murders in the city.
There were 150 murders in New Orleans in 2014, the lowest number since 1971, and that was the third consecutive year that murders declined in the city. They mayor's office credited its "NOLA FOR LIFE" strategy when announcing the 2014 numbers in January. The strategy aims to reduce homicides through a multi-pronged approach, including hot-spot and community policing, as well as violence prevention and economic development programs.
The city has pursued the same strategy this year, and appears on pace to come close to matching the homicide totals of 2014. There have been 138 murders in the city this year, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, and many of the strategies that appear to have helped lower the city’s murder rate were on display this weekend in the wake of the Sunday's shooting.
Police were only about a block away from the scene at Bunny Friend Playground as they had been helping with a parade, said New Orleans police chief Michael Harrison.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu called on witnesses to come forward and provide police information, saying the shooting is "just not something you can tolerate in the city."
Catching the shooters, he added, "is going to require the people who were in this park to basically say they've had enough and they're not going to put themselves in harm's way and give us information so that the police can do their job."
As many as 500 people could have been in the park when the shooting started, Mr. Harrison said. He told WDSU-TV that the shooting might have been gang-related.
Police spokesman Tyler Gamble said all the victims were listed in stable condition and suffered either direct gunshot wounds or were grazed by bullets. One 14-year-old girl was shot three times in the leg. Another 14-year-old girl was hit once in the knee and five times in the backside.
New Orleans police were also able to identify a suspect on Sunday in an attempted murder case. Police say Euric Cain, 21, is the suspect in the shooting of Peter Gold, a 25-year-old Tulane University medical student. The attack, captured in surveillance video, occurred in the pre-dawn hours of Friday morning. Police said Mr. Cain shot Mr. Gold in the stomach and then tried to shoot him again, but failed because his gun jammed.
Gold was in critical condition at the hospital on Sunday, police said. Cain is wanted for attempted first-degree murder, second-degree kidnapping and armed robbery, and Tulane University is offering a $10,000 for any information leading to the arrest and indictment of the man who shot Gold, the New York Times reported.
"The violence is not going to be tolerated in this city," Mayor Landrieu said at a news conference on Sunday.
New Orleans' success comes as a number of cities, including Baltimore, Milwaukee, and Chicago, have seen spikes in violent crime this year after years of declines.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.