At least 19 people, including two children, were wounded when multiple gunmen opened fire at a Mother's Day parade in New Orleans, La., on Sunday. While no one had been arrested until Sunday evening, the FBI described the incident as "street violence."
Police saw three suspects running from the scene, not far from the French Quarter at the 7th Ward neighborhood, at about 1.50 p.m., according to The Associated Press. One of the suspects appeared to be between the ages of 18 and 22, and the police are searching for the gunmen.
Most the victims were grazed by bullets, and included 10 men and seven women. A boy and a girl, both 10 years old, were also grazed and injured. The children were said to be in good condition.
"It's strictly an act of street violence in New Orleans," Mary Beth Romig, a spokeswoman for the FBI in New Orleans, was quoted as saying. She stressed there was no reason to attribute the shooting to an act of terrorism.
According to Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas, only half of the 400 people who came out for the "second-line" procession – loose processions in which people dance down the street as per a New Orleans tradition – were at the location where the shooting occurred.
"These are unusual circumstances," Serpas was quoted as saying. "We have second lines which occur in the city of New Orleans virtually every weekend at this time of the year. We had a full complement of police officers. It appears that these 2 or 3 people just for a reason unknown to us, started shooting at towards, or in, the crowd. It was over in just a couple seconds."
Some witnesses spoke to the media and described the incident.
"We were about 50 feet away from the actual shooting," Happy Acee, a participant, told Los Angeles Times. "It sounded like there were six or seven shots that rang off, and we ended up hitting the deck. ... and literally people [were] just running over the top of us, just trying to get away."
"Right before it happened, there was some idiot on his trampoline on the left side [of the parade route], and everybody was looking at this fool," Gretchen Ramke, another participant, was quoted as saying. "Somebody yelled, 'Everybody get down!' – not the shooter – and we hit the street, and I got bruised. I think somebody jumped on top of me."
Mayor Mitch Landrieu held a press conference Sunday night at a hospital where victims had been taken. "These kinds of incidents will not go unanswered. Somebody knows something. The way to stop this violence is for you all to help," he told reporters.
Landrieu called it "a very tragic day," especially because the shooting took place on Mother's Day. "We have mothers that were shot, sisters that were shot, little children that were shot." However, he indicated that parades cannot be banned. "The cultural events are very important to us, it's like calling for an end to Mardi Gras because someone takes an opportunity to shoot someone during one of our parades."
Street violence is not uncommon during parades in New Orleans. At least four people were shot in the French Quarter days before Mardi Gras earlier this year. No one was killed in that incident.