Saturday, February 21, 2009

Parade Gunman Scatters Marching Band: Glad I Didn't Know, Otherwise NOLA Mardi Gras is Plain Old Fun

Last night I had to maneuver through New Orleans parade traffic, but I didn't go to any of the parades. The city had three parades, all uptown--Morpheus, Hermes, and d'Etat, that factored into my evening's plans. I had to figure out how to meet friends from out of town at a mid-city restaurant and not get caught up in Friday night before Mardi Gras madness.

I enjoyed the meal, and after dinner drove the friends back to their sleep destinations. One was staying at a hotel in the French Quarter--no chance of getting near that--and the other was staying on St. Charles Avenue. At dinner, one topic I had avoided discussing was New Orleans crime because I dislike raising the specter of fear. However, the city's crime rate was in the back of my mind.

Despite the daily violence we endure, we rarely hear of shootings at Mardi Gras parades, which is why I loathe a commercials for suburban areas like Gretna and Metarie who advertise themselves as "safe" and given the people in the commercials there's always the subtext of "and white."

Anyway, we had a shooting at a parade last night, near the end of the Morpheus parade. After I dropped off the first friend and headed toward St. Charles with the other, the traffic pattern seemed a little off to me. So, I took some backstreets to avoid blockades. We passed by Melpomene/Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and as we neared the intersection of Felicity and St. Charles, we saw police officers on horseback, people walking away from St. Charles with beads, glowing bracelets and funny hats. That seemed pretty normal, but I thought Morpehus must've been running late. As late as it was, the crowds should have been thinner walking away from the parade.

And then we came to police directing us to turn right on St. Charles. No one was allowed to turn left toward Melpomene/MLK, and that was fine because that wasn't the direction in which we needed to go. We were headed toward Louisiana Avenue.

Nevertheless, I thought the police were behaving more like there was a problem than like they were just doing typical crowd control. Other than the demeanor of the officers directing traffic, everything else looked business as usual. The St. Charles neutral ground and the side of the street down which the parades had traveled was a field of garbage. Dotting the neutral ground/median, amidst pools of trash, were ice chests, pup tents, blankets, chairs--people camped out for the rest of the weekend through Mardi Gras day probably.

I don't know if they'll be asked to leave or not. I had seen the same kind of campers in mid-city on Canal.

After chattering on about Nagin and how "he'd better have budgeted for proper clean up," discussing Jefferson aka money-in-freezer-crook and the funkiness of politics in general, I dropped my friend off at her other friends' house and headed home. My adult daughter was beside me to keep me company.

This morning I went to and learned of last night's shooting at the Morpheus parade. So, my feeling that the police were behaving differently than after uneventful parades was on target.
Suspect caught within minutes of Friday parade shooting, New Orleans police say
by Katy Reckdahl, The Times-Picayune
... Wilson Revelle, 38, said he and his wife were standing on the river side of St. Charles at Melpomene watching a marching band when he heard a series of gunshots.

When someone shouted, "He's got a gun," the band and the crowd ran in his direction, he said, leaving the victim's body lying on the street.

Revelle said he was impressed by a swift response by paramedics, who arrived within about 30 seconds of the shooting, he said. (The Times Picayune)
Apparently a 27-year-old shot a 20-year-old. The victim is alive but in the hospital. The alleged shooter's in custody. I wonder what's behind that story. What's a 27-year-old doing gunning for a someone seven years younger? We can't explain this one away as an impulsive teen. I'm thinking either it's over a woman or somebody's a straight-up gangster. I've got no sympathy for shooters, especially ones who want to ruin not just their own lives but other people's lives and other people's parties.

Anyway, I'm glad the police were out in full force because no matter how you feel about police officers, it's a fact that police presence discourages bad behavior, and in the case of the shooting, having enough officers on the street seems to have ensured the suspect didn't get far.

I'm also glad I didn't know for a fact last night that I was driving near an active crime scene. Most of all, I'm glad my out-of-town friend didn't know it. People come down here, you want them to have a good time and to feel safe. Unfortunately, arriving at that place of safety for New Orleans is taking longer than we'd hoped it would and how to get there is not as simple as tossing people in jail.

In spite of last night's unfortunate incident, I'll be at the Endymion parade tonight. I thought I'd be at NOMTOC, but that was earlier today. Like Zulu, NOMTOC is an all black krewe.

Keep up with the brighter aspects of Mardi Gras at with great video and pics.

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