An elderly woman was fatally shot and two men wounded Tuesday (May 31) when an argument escalated into gunfire in a Xavier University parking lot after a graduation ceremony for Morris Jeff High School, New Orleans police said.
The age and identity of the slain woman was not immediately disclosed, and NOPD Deputy Supt. Christopher Goodly said he could not confirm that she was the grandmother of a graduating student. Goodly also did not disclose the age of the two wounded males, but said their injuries were to the leg and shoulder, respectively, and not considered life-threatening.
Goodly said at least three people have been detained for questioning but no arrests had been made as of 1:10 p.m.
Goodly described the incident as a “senseless act of violence,” that began with an argument between two females whose ages were not disclosed. Their argument in the parking lot rapidly escalated until guns were drawn and shots fired, he said. The elderly woman struck was believed to be an innocent bystander.
“This unfortunate incident did not have to happen,” Goodly said.
“I am outraged and saddened by the callousness shown today outside Xavier University,” NOLA-PS Superintendent Dr. Henderson Lewis Jr. said. “The graduating seniors of Morris Jeff were there to share in their collective achievements and bask in the brightness of their futures – only to have their optimism ripped apart by gun violence. This has got to stop. We must come together as a community, as a country, and address the damage caused by access to guns and to get to the root of the anger and despair that compels individuals to even think of harming others. All our children have a right to be safe and we must do all we can in our power to protect that right. My heart breaks for the families of the victims, and I implore us all to rally around them in their time of need.”
“This is a horrific tragedy on what should be a day of celebration for our seniors, but Morris Jeff is a strong school community and we will unite to help each other heal,” said Morris Jeff Head of School Patricia Perkins. “Every day, we teach our children to solve their differences with their words and to be compassionate toward each other. Our graduates will make a difference in this world because they learn to see each other as equal human beings. This resolve is only stronger after today’s violence.”
The shooting occurred in a parking lot outside Convocation Center, used as the venue for numerous high school graduation ceremonies each spring. Witnesses told Fox 8 that anywhere from 5-12 gunshots rang out.
Goodly said investigators were working to determine how many people fired weapons, who they were, and whether they were students, friends or relatives of graduates. He asked that anyone with information on the shooting to contact the NOPD or Crimestoppers.
“Nobody has been arrested for this crime, at this point,” Goodly said.
This was at least the second high school graduation staged at Xavier to be marred by violence in the past 11 days. On May 20, a fight broke out during the Carver High graduation event, with witnesses capturing a wild fracas inside Convocation Center that involved attendees throwing punches and chairs.
“This graduation, they had a good amount of security,” Goodly said. “We had interior coverage as well as exterior coverage on the scene. Both the Xavier police, as well as the (NOPD) Second District and Tulane police on the perimeter security.”
The Carver High incident did not involve gunfire. But it happened the morning after three people were shot and a fourth injured at the May 19 graduation ceremony for Hammond High School at Southeastern Louisiana University on the Northshore.
Governor John Bel Edwards issued a statement, calling Tuesday’s graduation shooting “senseless” and assuring those responsible will be brought to justice.
“For the second time this graduation season in Louisiana, gun violence has marred what should be an exciting day of celebration for high school graduates, their families, and teachers. I hope all Louisianans will join me in prayer for the victims of these pointless acts of violence.
“Those who perpetuate these senseless acts of violence will be brought to justice. We must do more to keep our communities safe, and this means we must do more to ensure that those who pose an unacceptable risk of harm to others aren’t able to acquire or keep firearms.
“In light of recent gun violence in Buffalo and Uvalde, gun safety discussions and action involving expanded background checks and red flag laws are very much in order.”
The woman killed at Xavier is New Orleans’ 121st homicide victim in the first 151 days of this year. Less than five months into 2022, the city already has eclipsed the 119 homicide victims recorded in the entirety of 2019.