9 Shot, 2 Fatally in New Orleans as Mardi Gras Kicks Off

With tourists streaming into town for Mardi Gras celebrations, a spasm of gun violence left two people dead and seven wounded — more bad news for a city struggling to rebuild itself and its tourism industry.

Officials noted the bloodshed did not occur near any of the parades Thursday night to celebrate Carnival, which culminates Tuesday in Mardi Gras.

The two unrelated shootings were not random or part of a robbery, and the victims were all targeted, Sgt. Joe Narcisse said.

In the first shooting Thursday evening, three people were shot, two fatally, in a car parked in the Ninth Ward, far from the heart of the party. The survivor — the car's driver — told police he knew and had given a ride to the man who shot them, Narcisse said.

Another shooting wounded six people, one critically, early Friday at a Mid-City nightclub. The gunman escaped in a stampede that followed.

"Once again it's a situation where violent crimes are taking place in inner-city neighborhoods and traditional hot spots," said Mary Beth Romig, spokeswoman for the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau. "The truth is, Mardi Gras continues to be one of the safest times for tourist to be here."

In January, the Convention and Visitors Bureau unveiled an aggressive advertising campaign to attract tourists to the city 18 months after Hurricane Katrina.

In the French Quarter, some tourists seemed unconcerned by the violence.

"A lot of people back home told us not to come," Lisa Pencak said. "But we have crime in Pittsburgh as well, it's really no big deal. You have to be careful anywhere you go."