Five youths dead in New Orleans shooting
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Five teenagers were shot to death early on Saturday morning in New Orleans in one of the worst mass killings in the history of the city, police said.
A 16-year-old, a 17-year-old and three 19-year-olds were found shortly before dawn in and near a sport utility vehicle surrounded by semi-automatic handgun shell casings, said police spokesman John Bryson.
"The carnage and the number of deaths appear to be leading toward (a motive) of retaliation and/or drug related. I don’t think we have ever in the history of the city had five people gunned down inside a vehicle," he said.
The central city area where the youths were killed has also been the scene of previous drug-related arrests, he said.
But no weapons or drugs were immediately found on the victims, and neither the motive nor number of assailants were clear.
"It’s obvious the intent of the shooter was not to scare these guys but to kill ’em," he said. "I can imagine how the fathers are going to feel to get this news that their sons were murdered the day before Father’s Day. That’s pretty bad."
Three bodies were found in the vehicle, which was smashed against a telephone pole. A fourth man was found dead on the sidewalk and a fifth, who was found critically wounded and later died, was nearby on the street.
The murder rate in New Orleans, once one of the most deadly cities in the United States, slowed to a trickle after Hurricane Katrina forced the evacuation of the city last year.
The city has had 52 killings so far this year, less than half the more than 100 reported in the first half of 2005, but residents and local media report a growing feeling that crime is coming back quickly. About half of city residents are estimated to have returned from areas that they evacuated to for the storm.