Police identify Mother's Day parade shooting suspect

US police have identified a 19-year-old as a suspect in the shooting of about 20 people during a Mother’s Day parade in New Orleans.

Police identify Mother's Day parade shooting suspect

US police have identified a 19-year-old as a suspect in the shooting of about 20 people during a Mother’s Day parade in New Orleans.

Superintendent Ronal Serpas said that several people had identified Akein Scott, of New Orleans, as the gunman captured on CCTV.

He said it was too early to say whether he was the only gunman.

“We would like to remind the community and Akein Scott that the time has come for him to turn himself in,” Mr Serpas said at a news conference outside police headquarters.

A photo of Scott hung from a podium in front of the police chief. “We know more about you than you think we know,” he added.

The mass shooting showed again how far the city has to go to shake a persistent culture of violence which belies the city’s festive image.

Earlier, police announced a $10,000 (€7,707) reward and released blurry surveillance camera images, which led to several tips from the community.

“The people today chose to be on the side of the young innocent children who were shot and not on the side of a coward who shot into the crowd,” Mr Serpas said.

The superintendent said police special weapons team members and US marshals served a search warrant at one location looking for Scott, but did not find him.

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 which has 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 as he sat outside his house, about half a block from the scene of the shooting.

His window sill has a hole from a bullet which hit it last year. Across the street another house is marked by bullets that he said were fired two weeks ago.

Video released early yesterday shows a crowd gathered for a boisterous second-line parade on Sunday 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 trousers who turns and runs out of the picture.

Police were working to determine whether there was more than one gunman, though they initially said three people were spotted fleeing from the scene.

Police said in a news release that Scott has previously been arrested for illegal carrying of a weapon, illegal possession of a stolen firearm, resisting an officer, contraband to jail, illegal carrying of a weapon while in possession of a controlled dangerous substance and possession of heroin.

It was not immediately clear whether he had been convicted on any of those charges.

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 Mr Pytell, a medical student.

“He was obviously pointing in a specific direction; he wasn’t swinging the gun wildly,” he added.

Mr Pytell said he tended to one woman with a severe arm fracture – he was not sure if it was from a bullet or a fall – and to others including an apparent shooting victim who was bleeding badly.

Three gunshot victims remain in a critical condition, though their injuries are not thought to be life-threatening. Most of the wounded have been released from hospital.

It is 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 injured in a shooting after an argument in the French Quarter in the days leading up to Mardi Gras.

Two teenagers were arrested in connection with the MLK Day shootings; three men were arrested and charged over the Mardi Gras shootings.

The shootings are bloody reminders of the persistence of violence in the city, despite some recent progress.

Last week, law enforcement officials touted the indictment of 15 people in gang-related crimes, including the death of a five-year-old girl killed by stray gunfire at a birthday party a year ago.

The city’s 193 homicides in 2012 are seven fewer than the previous year, while the first three months of 2013 represented an even slower pace of killing.

Last night, 100 to 150 people gathered for a unity rally and peace vigil in the wake of Sunday’s shootings. Some residents stood in their doorways or on their steps.

At one point, trumpeter Kenneth Terry played 'O For A Closer Walk With Thee'.

Robin Bevins, president of the ladies’ group of the Original Four Social Aid and Pleasure Club, said she and members of her organisation attended the rally to show solidarity.

“This code of silence has to end,” said Ms Bevins, who is also a member of the city’s Social Aid Task Force. “If we stand up and speak out, maybe this kind of thing will stop.”

Mayor Mitch Landrieu walked into the area, greeting people, shaking hands and stopping to talk with some residents before addressing the crowd.

“We came back out here as a community to stand on what we call sacred ground,” he said. “We came here to reclaim this spot. This shooting doesn’t reflect who we are as a community or what we’re about.”

Leading efforts to lower the homicide rate is a police force that’s faced its own internal problems and staffing issues. At about 1,200 members, the department is 300 short of its peak level.

Mr Serpas, the chief since 2010, has been working to overcome the effects of decades of scandal and community mistrust arising from what the US Justice Department says has been questionable use of force and biased policing.

Mr Landrieu and Mr Serpas have instituted numerous reforms, but the city is at odds with the Justice Department over the cost and scope of more extensive changes.

The scene of Sunday’s shooting – about 1.5 miles (2.4km) from the heart of the French Quarter – highlights other problems facing the city. Stubborn poverty and blight are evident in the area of middle-class and low-income homes.

Like other areas hit hard by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the area has been slower to repopulate than wealthier areas.

And Mr Landrieu’s stepped-up efforts to demolish or renovate blighted properties – a pre-Katrina problem made worse by the storm – remain too slow for some.

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