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Mardi Gras shooting makes local celebrants cautious
Visitors from Gainesville report positive experiences in New Orleans
From a security tower above the Mardi Gras crowds, New Orleans Police Department officers watch the 400 and 500 blocks of Bourbon Street after four people were shot around 9:30 p.m. Saturday. - photo by NAOMI MARTIN

It would seem there isn’t much that could stop the Mardi Gras festivities on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, not even gunfire.

Investigators in New Orleans worked early Monday to find suspects in a weekend shooting that wounded four on Bourbon Street during the countdown to Mardi Gras, while many revelers went on with their partying despite the violence.

But for some local celebrants, the shootings were enough to warrant caution.

Jackie Cooley of Gainesville said the shooting was enough to deter her from Bourbon Street, though she was among the revelers packed nearby along Canal Street taking in Sunday’s parades.

“It’s my first Mardi Gras, and I’m having a good time, but I won’t be going to Bourbon Street,” she said.

Counte Cooley, Jackie Cooley’s husband, said he and his wife were within a block of the shooting when it occurred. He said they likely wouldn’t have heard the gun blasts even if they’d been on the same street.

“We just stayed away from the Bourbon Street area especially after the shooting,” Counte Cooley said. “The crowds there seemed a little bit more out of hand than the different areas. So we stayed in the more sane areas, around Canal Street.”

Overall, Counte Cooley said his first Mardi Gras experience has been very positive.

“It sure gives me a different perspective of Mardi Gras,” Cooley said. “In a good way. I had a lot more negative thoughts about Mardi Gras than positive and this is very well-organized, very nice, very clean. That shooting the other night (will) put a damper on things, about the way people think about it.”

But those that know the city well are less concerned about one instance of violence.

It’s been 10 years since Erin Williamson lived in New Orleans but she still understands the way the city works.
Williamson, of Gainesville, said she “raised her eyebrows” when she heard of the shooting. She arrived in New Orleans the morning after the shooting.

She said that while a shooting on one of the busiest streets in New Orleans certainly isn’t good, it didn’t make her any more apprehensive than she normally would be.

“I went to college here for four years and I lived here,” Williamson said. “You just kind of learn when you live here that there is crime here. However it’s typically isolated. So it’s unusual for something like that to happen on Bourbon Street. It’s unusual for something like that to happen in certain areas of town. Obviously it did and it still sounded from what I heard like an isolated incident. But certainly not a good thing to be on the main drag there.”

In a video taken by a witness Saturday night and released the next day, the shootings are preceded by footage of people standing shoulder to shoulder in New Orleans’ famed tourist district, with some holding green plastic cups and wearing gaudy hats or masks. A section of the frame highlighted by police shows people jostling and speaking with angry expressions.

Police said in an email that the video depicts an argument involving one of the shooting victims and the suspects.

Two men are seen leaving the argument and returning with a third, then approaching the victim as at least one of the suspects begins shooting, according to police. Four shots are heard in rapid succession, followed by screams as some in the crowd stagger into one another and a nearby wall. A man whom police identified as one of the suspects is shown walking through the crowd with his arm extended as the gunshots are heard, though it’s difficult to make out a weapon.

Police said Sunday they were seeking the three men and that they have identified one suspect, but did not release the name.

The shootings wounded two men and two women, three of whom were treated and released Sunday. One man hit in the abdomen, thigh and pelvis was in stable condition Sunday after surgery the previous night, New Orleans police spokesman Hilal Williams said.

Of those treated and released, a man was shot in the buttocks, one woman was shot on the chin and right foot, and the second woman was shot on the toe, police said. No ages or names were released.

The shooting came on the last weekend of partying before Mardi Gras, the Fat Tuesday celebration that is the signature tourist event of the year in New Orleans. And for thousands, the partying continued despite the shooting. Parades rolled under cloudy skies Sunday before crowds of onlookers, though the shootings were on the minds of some revelers.

Some who were on Bourbon when the shooting occurred came back Sunday. Hours after the shooting, there was little evidence that violence had occurred. Revelers were in full party mode, packing the block amid a heavy police presence.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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