by Kevin Allman
The New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) estimated that as many as three gunmen opened fire on a Mother's Day second line procession in the Seventh Ward this afternoon, injuring 19 people, according to the latest figures provided by the NOPD.
Many of the victims of today's shooting were taken to Interim LSU Hospital, where doctors said the victims' gunshot wounds ranged from flesh wounds to more serious damage. At least two of the wounded were children, who suffered what police said were graze wounds. Three of those hit sustained more serious injuries. At this hour, there have been no fatalities.
Among the injured was Gambit correspondent Deborah Cotton, who covers second line, Mardi Gras Indian and Social Aid & Pleasure Club culture for the paper under the name "BIg Red" Cotton. Cotton was hit directly by gunfire and taken to intensive care for surgery. She is in guarded but stable condition tonight, according to doctors. This morning, Cotton had tweeted, "A very Happy Mother's Day to all! See U at the 2nd line today w/ @TBC_BrassBand."
In an interview last year, Cotton discussed the problem of endemic violence in New Orleans:
Today's parade was an annual Mother's Day procession staged by the Original Big 7 Social Aid and Pleasure Club. The gunfire rang out as the procession of 300 to 400 people reached the corner of N. Villere and Frenchmen streets about 1:45 p.m.
At a press conference at the shooting scene this afternoon, NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas said police were searching for three people who were seen fleeing down Frenchmen Street toward N. Claiborne Avenue immediately after the shooting. One suspect was described in a later NOPD news release as a black male approximately 18 to 22 years old wearing a white T-shirt and blue jean shorts.
Serpas said the Big 7 second line was being escorted by about 10 NOPD officers, and that the shooting was over in seconds.
"We can tell you without a doubt that we will find these guys," Serpas said.
At Interim LSU Hospital, Mayor Mitch Landrieu arrived in the late afternoon from his own Mother's Day celebration to meet with families and address the media. "The specialness of the day doesn't seem to interrupt the relentless drumbeat of violence on the streets of New Orleans," Landrieu said:
The crime called to mind another Mother's Day shooting that shocked the city — the 1994 slaying of nine-year-old James Darby, a third-grader at Mahalia Jackson Elementary School who had written a letter to President Bill Clinton on April 29 to express his fear that he might be killed in the street violence that plagued his neighborhood. Nine days later, James was hit with bullets and killed on the way home from a Mother's Day picnic.
Asked why the city hasn't changed in the 19 years since Darby's death, Landrieu said, "It is a problem this city has had for a long time, and it's not going to stop until all of us decide we have to do something about it."
Cotton, a native of Los Angeles, moved to New Orleans shortly before Hurricane Katrina and evacuated to Houston. She returned to New Orleans more determined than ever to write, videotape and chronicle the city's culture, particularly African-American music and street culture. She writes weekly for Gambit's Blog of New Orleans on second line culture and brass bands, and recently launched NewOrleansGoodGood.com, a website that she created to celebrate all that was "good good" about her adopted home.
"No one has done more to promote and preserve the second line culture in recent years," said Gambit publisher Margo DuBos. "I know she'd probably hope this wouldn't put a black cloud over the culture of second lines."
Gambit is organizing a benefit, and will announce details soon.
If you have any information about the shooting, call Crimestoppers. You don't have to give your identity and you may still be eligible for a cash reward. As of tonight, Crimestoppers is offering a $10,000 aggregate reward for information. Call 504-822-1111.
Danny Monteverde, The Advocate: "7th Ward second-line shooting injures 19"
Naomi Martin, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune: "Mother's Day turns into nightmare for mass shooting victims' families"
Monica Hernandez, WWL-TV: "19 wounded in Mother's Day second line shooting"