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November 1, 2011

2 dead, 14 injured in New Orleans shootings

Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS — Sixteen people were shot and at least two killed in a bloody Halloween in New Orleans that included gunfire on Bourbon Street, the tourist hot spot in the French Quarter.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, at a news conference called Tuesday in response to the five separate shootings, said a "culture of violence," that involved young black men with illegal guns has plagued the city and must be stopped.

"This continues to be a battle for the future of our city," Landrieu said.

Around midnight, two men started firing at each other on Bourbon Street — near the famous Chris Owens night club. When the gunfire stopped, Albert Glover, 25, of New Orleans, was dead and seven others injured. Police spokesman Garry Flot said the injuries were not life-threatening.

That block of Bourbon Street is usually filled with tourists, drawn to the mixture of clubs, strip joints and stores selling T-shirts, beads and provocative lingerie.

"It was packed, wall -to-wall," said Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas, who also said over 100 officers were dedicated to the French Quarter and Canal Street for Halloween.

"Police officers were within a few feet when this happened," he said.

An argument that escalated to a fist-fight and then to gun play, was the apparent motive behind the Bourbon Street shooting. It happened in the heart of the city's tourist district and could be a blow to one of the city's economic mainstays.

New Orleans Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau president Steve Perry called the shooting "disgusting and damaging."

"This is a tragedy for our city and brand," Perry said, noting that such killings are bound to damage the city's image and ability to attract tourists and conventions. "Tourists are critical, not only to the economic health of city but our employees, and residents. The time has come for us to have zero tolerance."

Tourism generates about 30 percent of the city's operating budget, Perry said. And it also has a huge bearing on the state budget. Hotel taxes pay for the Superdome.

Another shooting came an hour after the one on Bourbon Street on Canal Street near the Quarter.

Joshua Lewis, 19, of Marrero, was killed and three others wounded after Lewis bumped into Baltiman Malcom, sparking an argument that led to gunfire.

Police heard the shots and saw three men running away. Police chased down and arrested the 24-year-old Malcom. He was booked with one count of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted first-degree murder.

The others wounded were shot unintentionally as the gunmen unleashed a barrage of bullets, Serpas said. Those shootings fit the normal pattern in New Orleans, the chief said.

In the Bourbon Street shooting, the killer used a .45-caliber gun with an oversized ammunition clip, firing 32 times, Serpas said. Glover, who was killed, was also armed and did shoot back, Serpas said.

Three other shootings left four people hurt in other areas of the city. No one died.

Gun violence has soared in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Landrieu held a summit in September to ask the public to help bring the violence under control. He has pointed out that New Orleans' per capita murder rate is the highest in the nation.

As of Tuesday, 168 people had been slain in the city in 2011, compared to 176 for 2010. But as with the most recent shootings, a far larger number of people have been wounded than killed.

The majority involve young black men between 16 to 28 years old, he and Serpas said. Statistics show many of the shootings are grudge killings and most victims and shooters know each other.

The city is working to find ways to change the culture that some youngsters grow up in that approves of violence, but Landrieu acknowledged doing so is not a quick fix.

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"There is not a single tactic to combat murder that we are not implementing in New Orleans," Landrieu said.