5 hurt in New Orleans shooting that darkens French Quarter with more post-Katrina violence
NEW ORLEANS -- In the spirit of French Quarter laissez faire, the drinks were flowing again at a bar and pizza parlor where five people were wounded just hours before.
Police said a gunman walked into Club Decatur in the French Quarter early Tuesday and shot three men, and two women were grazed by bullet fragments. It was just the latest violence in a city struggling to rein in crime as it recovers from Hurricane Katrina.
"I'm not scared off at all," said Chad Sanders, a regular at Club Decatur moments after learning of the shooting.
New Orleans has seen a rise in violent crime in recent months as hurricane evacuees return to the city.
In June, after five teenagers were shot to death in one night, National Guard troops and state police were sent to the city to help police, a mission they will continue through December.
Most of the crime has been in areas not frequented by tourists, but the French Quarter and nearby tourist spots have seen their share of violence.
Tuesday's shooting, however, added to worries that violence is getting out of hand and may drive away much-needed tourist dollars.
The French Quarter was the scene of a macabre murder-suicide in early October when a man allegedly chopped up his girlfriend and cooked her body parts in an apartment above a voodoo temple before leaping to his death from a hotel rooftop.
On Oct. 9, three people were wounded outside a popular restaurant on Frenchmen Street, a street adjacent to the French Quarter where some of the city's best-known bands play nightly.
"It certainly seems like there is more crime, more over-the-top crime," said Nathan Chapman, president of the Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents and Associates Inc., a group that represents the interests of French Quarter preservationists.
Tourists reacted with mixed feelings about Tuesday's incident, which raised concerns for some.
"It was a little scary," said Sherry Reed, a 51-year-old jeweler visiting New Orleans with her husband, Richard. "My 17-year-old nephew was with us last weekend. ... I was glad he wasn't here."
Other tourists showed no signs of being rattled.
"You've got shootings everywhere," said JoAnn Ehlmann, a 62-year-old retiree from Missouri, who was in the Quarter with two old friends.
Jay Roman, vice president of the famous Cafe Du Monde, where coffee and beignets cloaked in sugar powder are the custom, said it was disheartening to see crime creep into the Quarter.
"What we need are positive stories coming out of the Quarter," he said.
Tuesday's shootings were in a popular corner where tourists flock to nearby venues such as The House of Blues.
Police Sgt. Jeffrey Johnson said the men's injuries were not considered life-threatening. The motive for the shooting wasn't known, and police were searching for a suspect.
Thinner crowds, empty streets, reduced store hours and boarded up shops have become all too familiar in the Quarter since Hurricane Katrina struck the city on Aug. 29, 2005.
The city's homicide count for the year stood at 128. With a population around 187,000, that translates into a per-capita homicide rate roughly 10 times the national average.
(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)