NEW ORLEANS, La. - Gunshots and then screams erupted in a French Quarter crowd celebrating the countdown to Mardi Gras, and police who released a bystander's video footage early Sunday said four people had been wounded in the Bourbon Street shooting after an argument involving some of the revelers.
Four shots rang out rapidly amid the throng, followed by the screams also heard on the videotape released by police. Authorities did not immediately say if any arrests had been made. They appealed for the public's help in their investigation of the shooting Saturday night on the famed French Quarter street.
Tourism is a lifeblood industry for New Orleans and Mardis Gras is one of the city's leading events along with Jazz Fest and major sporting events such as the recent Super Bowl. Yet New Orleans remains plagued by violent crime, including gun violence that has soared in the years since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005.
Those wounded in the Saturday shooting included a male victim in guarded condition with shots to the abdomen, thigh and pelvis area along with one other male and two female victims with lesser gunshot wounds, New Orleans Police spokesman Frank B. Robertson said in a statement early Sunday.
The other victims included a male struck in the buttocks, a female struck on the chin and the bottom of the right foot and another female struck on a toe, police added.
Police had said late Saturday that the most severely wounded male was in critical condition and underwent surgery. The others were previously reported in stable condition. None were identified by age or name.
In the same email linking to the bystander's footage, Robertson appealed for anyone with information to come forward about the shooting, which came on the frenzied last weekend of partying before Mardi Gras, French for the Fat Tuesday celebration.
The French Quarter was thronged with crowds ahead of the city's signature party event of the year.
The bystander's footage showed many partying in costumes, several with drinks in hand, before the shooting.
Police said that two men initially were arguing with a male victim who ended up being the most seriously wounded. According to police, the two suspects briefly withdrew after the initial argument, then one of them returned with a third man and the shooting erupted.
Authorities described the three as "perpetrators" and said one was 18 to 22 years old, another about 20 to 25 and a third as a man with a heavy build and beard. Police gave no further information about them or their whereabouts.
Some bartenders and revelers said the block of Bourbon Street where the shooting occurred was closed off to the crowds for a time while detectives investigated. Some of the visitors stayed hunkered in the bars, eateries and entertainment venues before the partying resumed in force hours later across that stretch of Bourbon Street.
Andrew Pittman, 20, said it wasn't his first Mardi Gras after attending last year, but it was his first shooting incident.
"We were just walking down Bourbon Street, and people walked by and said there was a shooting. We saw like 12 cops on horses, so we just turned around."
Julia Rosenthal, a 19-year-old visitor, had mixed feelings about hanging out in the French Quarter after the shooting. "It's not an OK thing that happened, and it's definitely scary. But I'm not going to let it affect my night," she told the AP.
Patrick Clay, 21, told The Times-Picayune he was standing on the corner of Bourbon Street when suddenly he saw a crowd running and people screaming there was a shooting.
"Everyone immediately started running and the cops immediately started running toward where people were running from," Clay said. "I was with a group of about seven people and at that point we all just kind of grasped hands and made our way through the crowd as soon as possible."
Peter Manabani, an employee at the Rat's Hole bar, said police had shut down a whole Bourbon Street block for an hour to investigate but allowed people to return to the area later.
Early Sunday there were barely any signs a shooting had occurred, as revelers cavorted in full party mode, packing the block amid a heavy police presence. Many drank and carried on, beads draped about their necks.
Laura Gonzalez, 21, said it was her first Mardi Gras and she spent some time in the Fat Catz bar nearby as police investigated the shooting. She said the bar quickly locked its doors soon after the shooting and wouldn't let anyone in or out while police kept the crowds back from the crime scene.
Asked if it was frightening, she responded: "Not really. We were just locked in a bar and we weren't going to let this one incident wreck our party."
Parades rolled all day Saturday but none on Bourbon Street because the streets are too narrow. One of the biggest Mardi Gras parades, the Krewe of Endymion, rolled down Canal Street and just skirted Bourbon Street a few hours before the shooting. Typically, once
the parades end, partygoers head to the French Quarter.