NEW ORLEANS – A 20-year-old man was arrested Friday in connection with a gunfight that erupted on Bourbon Street, killing one bystander and wounding nine others on the thoroughfare of nightspots that is one of New Orleans’ biggest tourist draws.
Police chief Ronal Serpas said Trung T. Le was arrested Friday afternoon in Mississippi. He will be extradited to Louisiana, where he faces one charge of first-degree murder and nine charges of attempted first-degree murder.
Le, who turns 21 in August, is from the city of Belle Chasse, near New Orleans.
Police said Le is believed to have fired the first shot in an exchange of gunfire that shattered the good-time atmosphere early Sunday in the French Quarter. Serpas said police are still working to identify another person involved in the gunfight.
“We will not stop until everybody who was involved in this has been brought to justice,” said Mayor Mitch Landrieu. He had joined Serpas on Friday for a public roll call of officers on duty as the city enters the 4th of July weekend while hosting the annual Essence Festival that draws thousands of visitors to the city.
Stressing that police know who Le’s associates are, Serpas issued a warning that anyone with knowledge of the crime should come forward or face possible prosecution.
Most of those hit in the Sunday morning shooting spree were visitors to the city, including Brittany Thomas, 21, from the south Louisiana city of Hammond, who died Wednesday. Others were from Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida and Australia. One person remained hospitalized Friday in stable condition.
The shooting happened days ahead of the Essence Festival — a major summer tourist event that opened Thursday. A contingent of 30 state police was assembled Wednesday in the city to help with patrols during the holiday weekend. And the head of the state police announced Thursday that a total of 50 state troopers and other state public safety officers would be redeployed from this weekend through Labor Day to help city police.
The number of slayings in the city declined last year and appears on pace to shrink again this year. But violent crime continues to be a major problem in New Orleans. Landrieu earlier this week acknowledged the need to beef up a police force that has diminished over the years from around 1,600 to 1,200, adding that the City Council has approved money to hire 150 new officers.
After the shootings, police released surveillance camera videos showing the gunfire and resulting mayhem. Police said they had developed “persons of interest’ thought to have knowledge of the case, but there was no sign of a break until Friday afternoon’s announcement that Le was a suspect.
Police said Detective Bruce Brueggeman obtained an arrest warrant for Trung Le Friday morning. He was caught in Mississippi by members of the New Orleans police working with U.S. marshals. Police continued to seek any pictures or videos taken in or around the crime scene at the time of the incident.