2065 171 1 LINKEDIN 67 COMMENTMORE

NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans police are working to identify two gunmen who shot into a Bourbon Street crowd early Sunday morning, injuring nine people.

Police say all of the victims were innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire, and some of those victims were tourists visiting New Orleans.

Police say two men got into a dispute, and that's when they pulled out their guns and started shooting at one another.

New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Ronal Serpas called it a cowardly act that wounded nine people, two of which remain in critical condition.

"This is a heinous crime," said Serpas. "This is two young men, both armed with firearms, who chose to settle a dispute between themselves without a moment's care for anyone else."

A.J. Garcia and his girlfriend, Amanda Hawkins, were in town celebrating a birthday when they heard the gun shots.

"We just looked back and it was like ants, like when you step on an ant pile, everyone just scattered," said Garcia.

"We hear the gunshots and we run, we get into this first bar right here," Garcia said. "I throw her on the ground and people are coming in, just falling over each other."

Hawkins said, "It's like a movie or something you see on the news. I never imagined it would happen to us."

Bystanders rendered aid to the victims before help arrived. Police were called to Bourbon Street about 2:45 a.m. CT.

"Then this guy came limping in and he was shot in the knee and then we lifted his pants up and he was just gushing blood," Garcia said. "I took my shirt off and my girlfriend tied it around his leg."

Hawkins said, "I was just trying to calm him down. 'Where are you from? What's your name? How many brothers do you have?' I was just trying to get his mind off it."

There are several security cameras on Bourbon Street and throughout the French Quarter.

Police officials said they've got a lot of video footage of the shooting and several eyewitnesses, and although they haven't released the names of the two gunmen, police say they have a pretty good idea who they are and expect to make an arrest soon.

During a news conference Sunday, Serpas said he's certain police are "going to catch these two little young men and we're going to bring them to justice."

"I hope that they're listening," he said. "I hope that their friends are listening, and hope their mom and them are listening."

In a statement issued Sunday, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said the "No. 1 priority is to keep New Orleans safe. These kinds of incidents will not go unanswered."

The shooting comes less than a week before the Essence Festival is set to begin. Serpas said more police will be on hand for the festival, as is protocol for bigger events, and that "plenty" of officers will be visible.

Sunday morning's incident is the third major shooting on Bourbon Street in the last three years. In February 2013 on the Saturday before Mardi Gras, an argument led to a shooting that sent four people to the hospital. During Halloween in 2011, one person was killed and seven others were injured after gunmen opened fire on each other in the crowd.

Bourbon Street, New Orleans' most famous street, is a nightly swirl of bright neon and happy tourists with beverages in hand. The street has a blend of jazz joints, strip clubs, bars and restaurants.

Contributing: The Associated Press

2065 171 1 LINKEDIN 67 COMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: http://usat.ly/1lF0UOC