Police identified a 19-year-old man as a suspect in the shooting of nearly 20 people during a Mother’s Day parade in New Orleans, saying several people had identified him as the gunman.
Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas said they were looking for Akein Scott. He said it was too early to say whether he was the only shooter.
“The important thing for Akein Scott now is to turn himself in,” Serpas said, standing outside of police headquarters. A photo of Scott hung from a podium in front of the police chief.
The mass shooting showed again how far the city has to go to shake a persistent culture of violence that belies the city’s festive image. Earlier, police announced a $10,000 reward and released blurry surveillance camera images.
Investigators said they got several tips from the community.
“The people chose to be on the side of the young innocent children shot instead of on the side of a coward who shot into the crowd,” he said.
Angry residents said gun violence — which has flared at two other city celebrations this year — goes hand-in-hand with the city’s other deeply rooted problems such as poverty and urban blight. The investigators tasked with solving Sunday’s shooting work within an agency that’s had its own troubles rebounding from years of corruption while trying to halt violent crime.
“The old people are scared to walk the streets. The children can’t even play outside,” Ronald Lewis, 61, said Monday as he sat on the front stoop of his house, about a half a block from the shooting site. His window sill has a hole from a bullet that hit it last year. Across the street sits a house marked by bullets he said were fired two weeks ago.
Video released early Monday shows a crowd gathered for a boisterous second-line parade suddenly scattering in all directions, with some falling to the ground. They appear to be running from a man in a white T-shirt and dark pants who turns and runs out of the picture. The image isn’t clear, but police said they hoped someone would recognize him and notify investigators.
Police were working to determine whether there was more than one gunman, though they initially said three people were spotted fleeing from the scene. Whoever was responsible escaped despite the presence of officers who were interspersed through the crowd as part of routine precautions for such an event.
Serpas said ballistic evidence gathered at the scene was giving them “very good leads to work on,” he said.
“I can assure whoever did this we know a lot more about you than you think we do. And my recommendation to you is to collect yourself and turn yourself in,” he said.
Witness Jarrat Pytell said he was walking with friends near the parade route when the crowd suddenly began to break up.
“I saw the guy on the corner, his arm extended, firing into the crowd,” said Pytell, a medical student.
“He was obviously pointing in a specific direction; he wasn’t swinging the gun wildly,” Pytell said.
Three gunshot victims remained in critical condition Monday, though their wounds didn’t appear to be life-threatening. Most of the wounded had been released from the hospital.
It’s not the first time gunfire has shattered a festive mood in the city this year. Five people were wounded in a drive-by shooting in January after a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade, and four were wounded in a shooting after an argument in the French Quarter in the days leading up to Mardi Gras. Two teens were arrested in connection with the MLK shootings; three men were arrested and charged in the Mardi Gras shootings.
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