NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Gunfire wounded four people on New Orleans' famed Bourbon Street as a costumed crowd partied amid the countdown to Mardi Gras, sending people running, police and bystanders said.
Four shots rang out rapidly Saturday night followed by screams, videotape taken by a bystander and released by police showed. Authorities said an argument involving some of those in the crowd led up to the shooting. No arrests were immediately reported and police said they were seeking three men who fled.
Those wounded included a male victim in guarded condition with shots to the abdomen, thigh and pelvis along with one other male and two female victims, New Orleans Police spokesman Frank B. Robertson said. His statement said the others were also hit by gunshots: a male in the buttocks, a female on the chin and right foot and another female victim on the toe.
Police had said late Saturday that the most severely wounded man was in critical condition and undergoing surgery while the others were stable. None were identified by age or name.
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.
New Orleans has been plagued for years by violent crime, including gun violence that has soared since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005.
The bystander's footage showed many people on the street in costumes before the shooting, a number of them apparently unaware of what was unfolding.
Police said that two men initially were arguing with the male victim who received several gunshot wounds According to police, the two suspects briefly pulled back after an initial argument, then one of them returned with a third man and the shooting erupted before they fled.
Authorities described the three as "perpetrators" and said one appeared to be about 18 to 22 years old, another about 20 to 25 and a third as a man with a heavy build and beard.
Patrick Clay, 21, a Louisiana State University student, told The Times-Picayune he was standing on the corner of Bourbon Street when suddenly he saw a crowd running and people screaming that there had been 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."
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. But partying resumed in force hours later across that stretch of Bourbon Street.
Julia Rosenthal, a 19-year-old visitor from Westchester, N.Y., 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 AP.
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.
Hours later on Sunday, there was little evidence that a shooting had occurred. Overnight revelers were in full party mode, packing the block amid a heavy police presence.
Laura Gonzalez, 21, of Baytown, Texas, said it was her first Mardi Gras and she spent some time in the Fat Catz bar nearby as police investigated. She said the bar locked its doors quickly after the shots rang out and wouldn't let anyone in or out while police went to the 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 a major thoroughfare and just skirted Bourbon Street a few hours before the shooting. Typically, once the parades end, partygoers head to the French Quarter.
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