New Orleans: Two brothers with a history of drug arrests and suspected ties to a neighborhood gang each face 20 counts of attempted second-degree murder in a shooting spree that brought a sudden bloody end to a Mother's Day parade in a New Orleans neighborhood.
The arrests by city police and U.S. marshals came less than four days after gunfire scattered the crowd and wounded 20 people — 19 hit by bullets and one while trying to flee.
Akein Scott, 19, was arrested without incident late Wednesday at an eastern New Orleans residence. His brother Shawn Scott, 24, was arrested Thursday morning as he tried to flee another residence in the city, police said.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu and police Chief Ronal Serpas hailed the police work as proof of officials' determination to end sporadic violence that mars the image of the tourism-dependent city.
"We will not let up," Landrieu said. "We are demanding that the shooting stop. And we will make sure that we do everything in our power, which I hope people now see is substantial, to make sure that we protect the citizens of New Orleans."
A magistrate judge on Thursday morning set bond for Akein Scott at $10 million in the attempted murder case. Another judge ordered him held without bond pending a later hearing on an unrelated gun and weapon charge.
Shawn Scott's court appearances were not yet scheduled. His Thursday morning arrest was announced by Serpas, Landrieu and District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro at a news conference in the middle of the intersection where the shooting took place, off the beaten path for most tourists but less than two miles from the popular French Quarter. Surrounding the officials were dozens of uniformed officers and onlookers from the neighborhood.
Police said Akein Scott had been identified by an unnamed witness as the person seen on a surveillance video, appearing to fire into a crowd that immediately scatters as some fall. Shawn Scott's role in the shootings remained unclear Thursday afternoon.
Police have yet to outline a motive, other than to say it appears related to gang activity, which Landrieu called a major factor in New Orleans street violence.
"This small number of people in gangs and groups are responsible for the overwhelming number of murders and shootings in this city. They are in fact terrorizing our streets," Landrieu said.
Police said the Scotts are members of a gang called the Frenchmen and Derbigny Boys. Frenchmen and North Derbigny streets intersect a few blocks from the shooting site. Court records show Shawn Scott has a history of at least three drug arrests on one block of Frenchmen Street.
In addition to the brothers, police said they arrested four people who are accused of helping Akein Scott elude capture. Justin Alexander, 19; Brandy George, 28; Bionca Hickerson, 22; and Nekia Youngblood, 32, are charged with being accessories after the fact to attempted second-degree murder and obstruction of justice, according to a police news release.
At Thursday's court appearance, Akein Scott, shackled and in an orange jumpsuit, stood calmly and silently as his court-appointed attorney handled proceedings in the shooting case.
Prosecutors said a witness picked out a photo of Akein Scott from a lineup. An arrest affidavit said the unidentified witness told investigators that Akein Scott was the person seen in a surveillance video that police released to the public as they searched for him. The witness also said Akein Scott was carrying a silver-and-black semi-automatic handgun at the shooting scene, according to the affidavit.
Magistrate Judge Gerard Hansen set Akein Scott's bond at $10 million — $500,000 on each of the 20 counts in the Mother's Day shooting case.
Police had been searching for Akein Scott since identifying him as a suspect Monday from the video.
Courtney Moles, whose apartment overlooks the shooting site, said Thursday that she didn't feel her safety was in jeopardy while police searched the city.
"I didn't really think he would come back. It's more personal than that," she said. "He wasn't going to that second line to make national news. He was probably settling some kind of score."
Edward Buckner, president of the Original Big 7 Social Aid and Pleasure Club, which sponsored Sunday's second-line parade, said he was ecstatic at the news of the arrests.
"That's the best thing that could ever have happened," he said.
Police publicized a $10,000 reward in the case, and investigators received tips after images from the surveillance camera were released.
Gun violence has flared at two other city celebrations this year. Five people were wounded in a drive-by shooting in January after a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade, and four were wounded in a shooting after an argument in the French Quarter in the days leading up to Mardi Gras. Two teens were arrested in connection with the MLK Day shootings; three men were arrested and charged in the Mardi Gras shootings.
Mark Hertsgaard, a freelance writer who was shot in the leg Sunday, said in a phone interview from his home in San Francisco that he wouldn't let the violence turn him against the city.
"I love New Orleans, and I love anything that helps to heal New Orleans from this event, including bringing justice to the perpetrators," said Hertsgaard, who was stopping in the city on his way home assignment.
Hertsgaard said he still loves the people of New Orleans.
"Yes, there are pockets of idiots, and the other day one of them put a bullet in my leg," he said.
"But let's not let a few idiots tarnish the reputation of a great city that has great people in it."