A packed high school graduation party in Gentilly ended in bloodshed late Friday night when gunfire erupted, killing a 15-year-old boy and injuring seven others.
The shooting happened about 11:20 p.m. in the 6200 block of Eads Street, according to Officer Garry Flot, a spokesman for the New Orleans Police Department.
Police have yet to make any arrests or name any suspects in the shooting.
Flot said the violence was the result of a dispute among partygoers. Eyewitnesses described a chaotic scene, with hundreds of people desperately fleeing the residence as between 15 and 20 gunshots were fired.
“I saw people running. I saw people ducking,” 15-year-old Jesse Williams said Saturday morning. “I got a dude shot next to me. I freaked out.”
Williams, who said he had heard about the party from his cousin, said he was still “traumatized” by what had happened.
“People were running over people. I was just ducking, trying to avoid the fire,” he said.
The dead teenager was identified as Tremaine Robertson by John Gagliano, chief investigator for the Orleans Parish Coroner’s Office. Gagliano said Robertson died about midnight at Interim LSU Hospital from a single gunshot wound to the head.
“He was basically dead on arrival,” he said.
Flot said the other shooting victims were four women and three men between the ages of 19 and 30. He characterized the injuries of six of the victims as “non-life-threatening.” One of the female victims was undergoing surgery, he said.
The party was being held in honor of JeShan Vail, a 17-year-old who lived at the house and was finishing his senior year at George Washington Carver High School.
Vail, an honors student who plans to attend Jackson State University in Mississippi, was one of about a dozen teenagers who were sifting through overturned coolers, food-strewn tables and other refuse from the party Saturday.
He said Robertson was his half-brother and had come to town for the graduation party from his home near Houston. He described Robertson as having passions for basketball and fashion.
According to Vail, there were about 250 people at the party. He said he and his friends charged $5 per person in order to recoup expenses associated with the event.
When the shooting happened, he said, he was standing right next to Robertson.
“All I saw was blood on his face and head,” he said.
He said Robertson was an innocent bystander and not involved in the conflict that precipitated the shooting.
Vail also said he didn’t know the shooter or shooters. “We never saw them,” he said.
One woman, who lived at the home but declined to give her name, said she believed there was an exchange of gunfire. She said one of the shooters was already in the party when another one “bum rushed” the gate.
Evidence of the gunfire was visible across the street, where a bullet hole could be seen in the trunk of the car of Sandra Marshall.
Marshall said she was sleeping when she heard a volley of shots. She looked outside and saw what she thought was a youth with a gun.
“He was standing right there,” she said, pointing at a spot in her driveway just feet away from a blood stain. “He looked like he was loading up again to do some more shooting.”
She said the shooter was wearing a white shirt and blue dress pants.
“He was too damn young to do what he was doing, that’s all I can tell you,” she said. “These are children.”
According to neighbors, the area is typically quiet. They said there have been past graduation parties at the home.
Residents said people were parked up and down the streets and were flowing in and out of the yellow single-story residence. A pair of green and orange balloons were still attached to the fence Saturday as well as a poster showing Vail in his green cap and gown. Someone had planted a white sign, with the biblical injunction “Thou shalt not kill,” in the front yard.
A flier for the party, circulated on social media, advertised a performance by DJ Nice. One of the apparent victims of the attack took to Twitter to assure friends that even though she had been shot in both legs, she would be all right.
Tangela Glenn, Robertson’s aunt, said the teenager’s family was reeling from the sudden loss.
Glenn said she was inside, fixing food, when the violence began.
“I just saw kids running and then there were shots,” she said.
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call Crimestoppers at (504) 822-1111.