NEW ORLEANS — Days after bursts of gunfire brought a chaotic and bloody end to a Mother’s Day neighborhood parade in New Orleans, news of now seven arrests gave an organizer of the traditional event reason to celebrate again.
“I’m just ecstatic,” said Edward Buckner, president of the Original Big 7 Social Aid and Pleasure Club.
Two brothers were booked on 20 counts each of attempted second-degree murder in Sunday’s shooting spree in which 19 people were struck by bullets and one was injured while fleeing. Authorities said three people remain in critical condition.
Akein Scott, 19, was captured Wednesday night. A $10 million bond was set for him in the shooting case Thursday, and he was ordered held without bond, pending another hearing on an unrelated gun and weapon charge.
His brother, Shawn Scott, 24, was arrested Thursday, and court records showed that bond was set at $10 million for him. An additional $91,000 in bond was added for other drug and weapon charges.
Five others were accused of helping the Scotts avoid capture. They are charged with being accessories after the fact to attempted second-degree murder and obstruction of justice, police said. The latest arrested Friday on that charge was 19-year-old Monique Pepe. Police said she allowed Shawn Scott to hide at her house.
Motives for the shootings have not been given, but police said the shootings were believed to be gang related and that the Scott brothers are thought to be members of a gang called the Frenchmen and Derbigny Boys.
The Dalai Lama, visiting New Orleans for the first time Friday, expressed condolences to victims.
“Nonviolence is the only way of solving problems,” he said before addressing a gathering at the city’s convention center.
“The real gun control, ultimately it comes here,” the Dalai Lama said, pointing at his heart.
News of the arrests in a case of violence that brought unwanted national attention to the tourist-dependent city was welcomed by San Francisco freelance journalist Mark Hertsgaard, who was shot in the leg as he watched the parade.
“I love New Orleans and I love anything that helps to heal New Orleans from this event, including bringing justice to the perpetrators,” Hertsgaard said Thursday. He is now back home in San Francisco.
Sunday’s shooting happened during a “second line” parade, so called because watchers of the procession of musicians and festively clad marchers often join in, forming a second line of marchers.
Buckner said the Original Big 7 club plans to re-stage the parade on June 1. Sunday’s parade drew an estimated 400 along its route through a neighborhood in New Orleans’ 7th Ward.
The abrupt end came when bullets started flying in the crowd. Surveillance camera video released Monday showed one man apparently firing into the crowd, scattering the assembled parade-watchers as some fell to the ground. Police said Akein Scott has been identified by an unidentified witness as the person seen on the video.
In an application for an arrest warrant, police said Shawn Scott is believed to have fired into the crowd from the opposite side of the street, based on another witness’ account of a conversation with Akein Scott.
Their arrests pleased Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who held a news conference at the shooting site Thursday, along with police chief Ronal Serpas and District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro. Dozens of uniformed officers and an array of police vehicles were in the background at an intersection that is off the beaten path for most tourists but less than two miles from the popular French Quarter.
Landrieu, who strongly promotes the city’s tourism industry and its successful hosting of Super Bowls, music festivals and the annual Mardi Gras celebration, said the arrests are the latest evidence of the city’s determination to stop the gunplay that mars its image.
“We all came back here to make it clear that the culture of death and violence on the streets of New Orleans is unnatural, it’s unacceptable, and the people of New Orleans have had enough,” Landrieu said.