On a Thursday in late November, the entire indomitable city of New Orleans recoiled in shared horror at security video of a young medical student collapsed on the sidewalk just off Magazine Street, clutching his bleeding torso, as a hooded assailant stood over him with a gun aimed at his head. The film’s dreadful silence only amplified the menace as the gunman apparently tried to squeeze the trigger, twice, to finish off his already-incapacitated victim, giving up only when a mechanical mercy intervened and the gun refused to fire.
Two nights later, Bunny Friend park in the Ninth Ward — its almost comically benign name a memorial to a teen who died in an accident in the 1920s — became the scene of the city’s next headline-grabbing gun battle. A block party and planned music-video shoot were rent apart by a hail of gunfire, leaving 17 people wounded, and at least a half dozen people have been named as suspects as investigators try to piece together how the celebration turned to chaos.
The bloodshed continued the following weekend, when more young men’s lives would be claimed around some of the city’s most best-known places: 26-year-old Brandon Robinson killed on Bourbon Street, 19-year-old Richad Dowell on Canal Street and 19-year-old Devin Johnson near the newly opened Lafitte Greenway.
And yet, city officials continue to insist that the struggle against violent crime in New Orleans has made significant strides in recent years, and many measurements as well as newly-published academic studies back them up. But if things are getting better, why does the carnage still insist on making its way onto playgrounds, green spaces and tourist thoroughfares? If the violence is the work of a relatively small group of people, why are they so hard to stop?