Hours after New Orleans Police Superintendent Michael Harrison pledged Tuesday to pay more overtime in an effort to fight the violence that has caused the city’s murder rate to jump by 30 percent this year, police said masked gunmen in two cars sprayed a New Orleans East house with bullets, killing a 17-year-old high school student and wounding his 4-year-old cousin in a brazen daytime shooting.
Relatives identified the dead youth as Gerald Morgan, 17, and said he was a high school senior. They said they believed Morgan had a previous fight with his killers in a park.
As the gunmen pulled up to the 5900 block of Boeing Street off Downman Road about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, relatives said, they opened fire, sending bullets furiously pounding into the family’s residence.
“They was trying to kill everything in that house,” said Gwen Morgan, who identified herself as the victim’s grandmother.
Earlier in the day, Harrison held a news conference to address the surge of violence in the city. He was flanked by officials from the State Police; the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.
Harrison said he is authorizing his district commanders to approve additional overtime and “recommitting” to the NOPD’s partnership with outside agencies as the city struggles to handle the surge in homicides in 2015.
He noted that, according to department statistics, even as the number of homicides soared, overall crime was down by 8 percent in the first three months of the year.
“We’re just recommitting it publicly to our citizens to reassure them that we are committed, that we haven’t given up, that we haven’t lost focus, that we’re more focused now than ever,” Harrison said.
He did not provide details about how many additional officers may be assigned to street patrols or how much extra money will be spent on overtime. NOPD spokesman Tyler Gamble said the news conference did not signal any sort of new task force.
Harrison’s pledge was of little consequence to Gwen Morgan, who said she and other family members watched helplessly as the killers shot her grandson. She tried to pull him into the house to safety but was blocked by other relatives as bullets flew.
“I tried to go grab Gerald, but they grabbed me back,” said a distraught Morgan. “I wanted to get him, but somebody grabbed me.”
Morgan believed her grandson, whom she believed to be armed, might have been able to return fire against the masked gunmen.
Terrified relatives of the victim locked themselves in a bathroom as the shooting continued. Somehow during the shooting, the victim’s cousin, 4, suffered a gunshot wound to the arm.
Both victims were taken to the hospital, where Gerald Morgan was pronounced dead with a gunshot wound to the head.
As police and crime scene investigators responded to the scene, frightened relatives wondered whether the gunmen might come for them next.
When a television reporter asked one relative of the victim whether he would be willing to be interviewed on camera, another pulled him back.
“No,” she said. “Cause they going to go home and sleep. Ain’t nobody going to shoot they house up.”
In another brazen incident Monday, three men, one of them wielding an AK-47 later recovered by police, were involved in a midday shootout on Conti Street near North Prieur Street. One witness said she heard as many as 20 shots fired.
The violence spilled over to harm at least one innocent bystander: As two of the suspects in the Conti Street shooting raced toward the hospital for treatment, they rear-ended the car of a Tulane University doctor, sending him to the hospital with back injuries.
Homicide Detective Debra Normand is leading the investigation into Morgan’s death and can be reached at (504) 658-5300.