By Steph Solis and John Bacon, USA TODAY
New Orleans’ historic Bourbon Street exploded in violence and chaos early Sunday when a shooting rampage left one person dead and nine others injured and sent panicked partygoers racing through the streets of the French Quarter.
Several officers on patrol after the Bayou Classic, a football showdown between Grambling State University and Southern University, heard the gunshots and quickly responded just before 1:30 a.m. CT, Chief Michael Harrison said during a news conference.
(Will Carr reports on violence, courtesy of Fox News and YouTube)
“This was not the place or time to bring firearms,” Harrison said. “We’ve made that clear. We are going to pursue this to the fullest extent of the law.”
Harrison said none of the victims was an intended target.
He identified the lone fatality as Demontris Toliver, 25, of Baton Rouge. Toliver, a tattoo artist, was in town to celebrate his birthday, WWL-TV reported.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu said Toliver was a New Orleans native. According to Toliver’s Facebook page, he attended New Orleans’ O. Perry Walker High School.
Harrison said five of the victims were released from a hospital by Sunday afternoon.
Four remained hospitalized with injuries that were not considered life-threatening. They ranged in age from 20 to 37 years old, police said.
Investigators were searching for the suspected shooters, who fled on foot.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu said the suspects were believed to be from out of town. He called the gun violence “completely unacceptable,” especially following a major city event.
(New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu spoke to the media after a mass shooting erupted on Bourbon Street that injured nine people and killed one. Courtesy of WDSU News and YouTube)
“It’s just a tragic end to what was otherwise a beautiful weekend,” Landrieu said.
Harrison said authorities had not immediately determined what prompted the shootings.
Police arrested two men, a shooting victim and a bystander, on firearm possession charges. Detectives were interviewing victims and witnesses and reviewing surveillance video footage from the area, Harrison said.
Ronnie Buendia, 25, a cashier at nearby parking garage, told The Times-Picayune he heard four shots. Then chaos ensued.
“Everybody was running into the garage trying to get away,” he said.
Glean Williams, 24, told the paper he was selling hats at an outdoor table on the corner of Bourbon and Canal streets when the shooting erupted.
“It was panic. Everybody started running,” he said. “People getting run over, stepped on, knocked over.”
(Learn More. Courtesy of NOLA.com and YouTube)
Harrison, who said eight other firearm arrests were made over the past 24 hours in the French Quarter, expressed disappointment that people brought guns despite law enforcement’s pleas to leave weapons at home.
“We’ve made a strong message that this was not the place or the time to bring firearms to the French Quarter during the Bayou Classic event or any event,” Harrison said.
Landrieu said police did “everything they could be expected to do” to avoid violence, citing the gun arrests and heavy police presence in the area.
“It was a beautiful game. Everyone was working really well with each other throughout the whole city,” he said. “It is so senseless.”