Unknown gunmen opened fire at a Mother’s Day parade in New Orleans on Sunday, wounding 19 people in an incident the FBI attributed to “street violence.”
Seventeen adults and two 10-year-olds were wounded when gunfire erupted in the early afternoon attack, the local police department said in a statement.
“Many of the victims were grazed,” some by bullets that ricocheted, the statement said.
“At this point, there are no fatalities, and most of the wounds are not life-threatening.”
The injured children — a boy and a girl — suffered graze wounds and were in good condition. A man and a woman were also hospitalized on Sunday.
The FBI said the shooting was unrelated to terrorism.
“From all of our intelligence, we have no reason to believe it was an act of terror, just street violence, [but] certainly today was not a normal day in New Orleans,” said Mary Beth Romig, a spokeswoman for the FBI in New Orleans.
The incident comes less than a month after twin bomb blasts at the Boston Marathon killed three people and wounded more than 260. In December last year, a gunman opened fire at an elementary school in Connecticut, killing 20 children and six staff members.
New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Ronal Serpas told reporters that shots from “maybe two different types of weapons” rang out, and that police saw three people running away immediately after the shooting.
“It appears that these two or three people just for a reason unknown to us, started shooting at, toward, or in the crowd,” Serpas said. “It was over in just a couple seconds.”
Serpas said that up to 400 people were in the parade, which was two to three blocks long, and about 200 people in the area of the shooting.
“Obviously, this is an unusual circumstance,” Serpas said, adding that similar parades are held in New Orleans “virtually every week at this time of the year.”
Police were searching for a motive for the shooting and appealed to the public to come forward with any clues. A cash reward for information leading to an arrest and indictment rose from US$2,500 to US$10,000 by day’s end.
“It’s just a very tragic day for us,” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said after visiting some of the wounded in hospital.
He urged the public to help “so that we can find the people who do this and make sure that they don’t hurt innocent victims anymore.”
He also called for a reduction of crime on the streets of the city known as the Big Easy.
“The specialness of the day doesn’t seem to interrupt the relentless drumbeat of violence that I have talked about so much on the streets of New Orleans,” he said. “It’s a shame and it’s got to stop.”
“It is important for us ... to change the culture of death on the streets of New Orleans to a culture of life,” he said.
When shots rang out, college students Michael Lee and Chelsea Hinshaw told the New Orleans Advocate newspaper that the crowd dropped to the ground “and we just kind of followed suit.”
When the shooting stopped, some fled in a panic, while others remained pressed to the ground.
Lee and Hinshaw said they carefully approached those still on the ground to see if anyone was wounded.
“I just wanted to get out of there as soon as possible, but we didn’t know if the shooter was still around,” Hinshaw told the newspaper.