Two intended targets in a fatal gun melee Sunday night on South Claiborne Avenue are members of "3-N-G," a notoriously violent Central City drug gang that apparently has survived the convictions of 20 members and associates in a recent state racketeering case, according to a law enforcement source.

New Orleans police have yet to describe a motive or name a suspect in a shooting spree that killed 63-year-old Earnest McKnight and wounded five others. But police are bracing for a surge of related gang violence in Central City in the wake of the worst mass shooting in New Orleans this year.

The source said the intended targets of the attack, which occurred just after 8 p.m. Sunday near First Street and South Claiborne, apparently were Arnold Learson and Nathan McCray, and that McCray suffered a gunshot wound. 

Speaking at a department meeting Tuesday, district brass said additional officers have been deployed to the 6th District’s lakeside end for more than a week, even before the mass shooting Sunday, because of trouble there.

“We've just got to keep our heat on,” District Cmdr. Ronnie Stevens said. “You got innocent bystanders that ended up getting struck. We’re going to continue to do that until we put this violence down.”

Lt. Nicholas Gernon added that officers should be on the lookout for gatherings related to recent violence in the district. The officers should notify ranking officers but not attempt to shut down such meetings, he said.

“We’re just providing security, so we don’t have another mass event,” Gernon said.

Blamed for numerous murders around Central City, 3-N-G was the target of a massive state racketeering prosecution, among the largest in a series of cases stemming from a coordinated campaign against violent street gangs in the city that began five years ago.

The gang, named for its stomping grounds around Third and Galvez streets, sought control of the heroin and crack market in a swath of Central City while meting out violence against members of rival gangs in the former Calliope housing complex and elsewhere, according to a 30-count indictment handed down in 2013.

The 20-defendant case ended with 19 guilty pleas and a trial this year for Kentrell "Black" Hickerson, a 3-N-G leader who was convicted and sentenced in July to a 100-year prison term.

McCray and Learson, both 23, were not defendants in the case.

McCray's criminal history includes a guilty plea for marijuana possession last year, a guilty plea to cocaine and marijuana possession in 2012 for which he received a suspended sentence, and another marijuana possession conviction in 2013 for which he received a three-year prison sentence, court records show.

Learson, 23, received a five-year suspended sentence after pleading guilty in 2014 to cocaine and marijuana possession.

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