Police ID suspect in New Orleans mass shooting

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 14, 2013 at 12:45 am •  Published: May 14, 2013
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It's not the first time gunfire has shattered a festive mood in the city this year. Five people were wounded in a drive-by shooting in January after a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade, and four were wounded in a shooting after an argument in the French Quarter in the days leading up to Mardi Gras. Two teens were arrested in connection with the MLK Day shootings; three men were arrested and charged in the Mardi Gras shootings.

The shootings are bloody reminders of the persistence of violence in the city, despite some recent progress.

Last week, law enforcement officials touted the indictment of 15 people in gang-related crimes, including the death of a 5-year-old girl killed by stray gunfire at a birthday party a year ago.

The city's 193 homicides in 2012 are seven fewer than the previous year, while the first three months of 2013 represented an even slower pace of killing.

On Monday night, 100 to 150 people gathered for a unity rally and peace vigil in the wake of Sunday's shootings. Some residents stood in their doorways or on their steps. At one point, trumpeter Kenneth Terry played, "O For a Closer Walk With Thee."

Robin Bevins, president of the ladies group of the Original Four Social Aid and Pleasure Club, said she and members of her organization came to the rally to show solidarity.

"This code of silence has to end," said Bevins, who's also a member of the city's Social Aid Task Force. "If we stand up and speak out, maybe this kind of thing will stop."

Amy Storper, who lives in a neighborhood near where the shooting happened, brought her 7-year-old son William to the rally.

"I felt the need to come out and show my support, to let people in this neighborhood know that people care," she said. "Perhaps if the whole city showed up, all 300,000, then maybe we can make a difference."

Mayor Mitch Landrieu walked into the area, greeting people, shaking hands and stopping to talk with some residents before addressing the crowd.

"We came back out here as a community to stand on what we call sacred ground," Landrieu said. "We came here to reclaim this spot. This shooting doesn't reflect who we are as a community or what we're about."

Leading efforts to lower the homicide rate is a police force that's faced its own internal problems and staffing issues. At about 1,200 members, the department is 300 short of its peak level.

Serpas, the chief since 2010, has been working to overcome the effects of decades of scandal and community mistrust arising from what the U.S. Justice Department says has been questionable use of force and biased policing. Landrieu and Serpas have instituted numerous reforms, but the city is at odds with the Justice Department over the cost and scope of more extensive changes.

Landrieu's administration initially agreed to a reform plan expected to cost tens of millions over the next several years. But Landrieu says he wants out now because Justice lawyers entered a separate agreement with Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman over the violent and unsanitary New Orleans jail — funded by the city but operated by Gusman.

The site of the Sunday shooting — about 1.5 miles from the heart of the French Quarter — showcases other problems facing the city. Stubborn poverty and blight are evident in the area of middle-class and low-income homes. Like other areas hit hard by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the area has been slower to repopulate than wealthier areas. And Landrieu's stepped up efforts to demolish or renovate blighted properties — a pre-Katrina problem made worse by the storm — remain too slow for some.

Frank Jones, 71, whose house is a few doors down from the shooting site, said the house across from him has been abandoned since Katrina. Squatters and drug dealers sometimes take shelter there, he said.

A city code inspector, who declined to be interviewed, was there Monday

"It's too late," Jones said. "Should have fixed it from the very beginning. A lot of people are getting fed up with the system."

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Associated Press reporters Kevin McGill, Michael Kunzelman and Stacey Plaisance contributed to this story.