Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas said investigators are unsure if the two apparent shooters were wounded. One witness told WWL-TV that the shooting at about 2:45 a.m. Sunday apparently began with a quarrel between two young men and escalated.
"He seemed pissed off at some dude, pulled the gun out and started shooting at the guy, then turned around on the crowd and started shooting at us," the unnamed witness said.
In spite of the hour, Bourbon Street in the heart of the French Quarter, was still packed with merrymakers. A New Orleans resident who identified herself only as Susan told the Times-Picayune that an intensive care nurse and an Army combat medic who happened to be on the scene began dispensing emergency aid immediately.
As of Monday morning, police reported no arrests. But Serpas promised the shooters would be apprehended.
"We're going to catch these two little ... uh, young men," he said at a news conference Sunday afternoon. "And we're going to hold them accountable and bring them to justice."
While New Orleans reported a 20 percent drop in homicides last year, serious crimes were up in the first three months of 2014, the Times-Picayune said. There have been a number of recent shootings in the heart of the tourist area, including three on Canal Street, the wounding of a woman Saturday as she got off a St. Charles Avenue streetcar, and the killing of a man Wednesday in a drive-by shooting on Frenchmen Street.
Serpas said it was chance that Sunday's shooting happened in the French Quarter.
"What happened was two young men got angry and shot at one another. It could've happened at this corner, or it could've happened at a corner 10 blocks from here, or it could've happened in another city," he said. "That's what we've got to deal with. Those two young men made a choice to hurt each other, and in the process put other people at risk."
Stephen Perry, president of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Mark Romig, his counterpart at the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation, issued a statement: "Tragedies of violence are impacting cities across our country. And while this is a crucial, challenging issue for our community, we are encouraged by the initiatives and priority (Mayor Mitch) Landrieu and his administration have given it."