The target of a shooting rampage Saturday night that left three people dead and seven others injured outside a strip mall on South Claiborne Avenue was fleeing his attackers across Louisiana Avenue and into a large group of people before he fell in front of the Chicken & Watermelon eatery, according to the owner of the business.

“He ran into a crowd of people,” said Skipper Nicholas, who said he reviewed video footage of the shooting Saturday night. “I think he probably thought, ‘If I run by the people, they won’t shoot me.’ He just got everybody shot.”

That victim was Jeremiah Lee, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the case.

Multiple sources in law enforcement added that Lee, about 30, was believed to be an associate of the notorious 3NG street gang from Central City.

On Sunday, the New Orleans Police Department confirmed investigators have obtained evidence suggesting the shooting was gang related.

A second man killed Saturday night was named Kurshaw “Twin” Jackson, 38, who lived in the neighborhood, according to Dorothy Bailey, who identified herself as Jackson’s aunt and returned to the shooting scene Sunday morning.

Law enforcement sources said Lee appears to have been the target of the two shooters. The two wore hooded sweatshirts and fired repeatedly into the crowd before fleeing on foot toward Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

The NOPD has not released any victims’ names or identified any suspects.

Chief Michael Harrison has said the killers stood over one victim in particular after the opening volley of gunshots outside the strip mall at the intersection of Louisiana and South Claiborne Avenues. Nicholas, the owner of the chicken shop, said that victim was the person others identified as Lee.

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Orleans Parish Criminal District Court records show a number of drug arrests and one relatively minor marijuana-related conviction associated with Lee's name.

Named for the intersection of Third and Galvez streets, which anchors their Central City territory, 3NG has been implicated in some of the city’s most notorious killings. One was the shooting death of 1-year-old Keira Holmes in 2011 in the housing development commonly referred to as the Calliope project.

Former Mayor Mitch Landrieu cited the child's killing as a major impetus for the creation of his administration's murder-reduction strategy, known as Nola for Life.

On Sunday morning, Nicholas stood by a newly formed gouge in the concrete entryway outside Chicken & Watermelon, located in a small strip mall that also houses a popular daiquiri shop, Jazz Daiquiris & Lounge. 

Nicholas, who estimated the crowd outside at about 20 people when the gunfire erupted, described how the two assailants stood over the man identified as Lee and fired at him repeatedly.

He also said that a young female who was killed lay nearby in front of a Cricket phone store. Her identity was unknown Sunday.

The third fatal shooting victim ran around the corner down Louisiana Avenue. Bailey said she made the identification of Jackson to police Saturday night.

Jackson frequented Jazz Daiquiris, and his tan Buick Century with tinted windows and a New Orleans Pelicans sticker on the dashboard remained parked adjacent to the strip mall on Louisiana Avenue, which is blocked off from Claiborne Avenue for road work.

Bailey said Jackson was shot once in the shoulder. Several neighbors on what they called “L-Block” said they knew him as “Twin” and watched him die on the sidewalk.

“He was a good child. He wasn’t a problem child. I don’t know what happened,” said Bailey, 52. “He wasn’t no target.”

She described Jackson as a construction and landscaping worker who lived in the neighborhood.

“He worked every day. He don’t bother nobody,” she said.

Of the seven people wounded, none were expected to have life-threatening injuries, police said Sunday. One of them had been in critical condition and undergoing emergency surgery late Saturday night.

One of the assailants had a long gun, and the other wielded a pistol, Harrison said.

Nicholas said the video shows the men perhaps three steps behind their target as they ran into camera range. He pointed to strike marks on the curb at Louisiana Avenue. He said the shooting victim was on his phone as he reached the curb.

“They was on him from the jump,” Nicholas said.

The strip mall includes four businesses that all opened Sunday as a cardboard box sat at the curb, stuffed with crumpled yellow police tape. The building features several security cameras on its brick façade, many of them pointing toward the scene of Saturday night’s shooting.

Jeffrey Thomas, who owns the daiquiri shop, said police retrieved the footage from outside.

Nicholas said crowds frequent the parking lot outside of the daiquiri shop on weekend nights. Neighbors said Nicholas’ business and the daiquiri shop hire local residents and give away bikes to children around Christmas time.

“We came to change the aura. This is horrible,” he said.

"It's a big blow. I hope the good we do overcomes it," Thomas said. "We don't have all that kind of stuff going on."

Saturday’s bloodshed occurred on a block that has been the site of gang killings in years past.

One was a brazen 2008 slaying that sent Central City crime kingpin Telly Hankton to prison for life. Among the witnesses to testify in that case was the daiquiri shop's then-owner, John Matthews, who had been shot 17 times in his home months after the killing, in what authorities portrayed as a botched hit carried out by Hankton's allies.

In October 2011, days after Hankton received his sentence, Matthews' younger brother Curtis, who had been managing the daiquiri shop for him, was shot to death just yards from the shop. Authorities said that killing was a hit carried out on Hankton’s behalf by his associate, Walter “Urkel” Porter.

Porter and Hankton were among 13 alleged members of Hankton's crew charged in a sweeping federal racketeering indictment that dropped in 2012. Eventually, nine of them pleaded guilty, and the four remaining defendants were convicted at trial and received life sentences.

The year after the Hankton clan was targeted, a similarly broad state racketeering indictment named 20 alleged 3NG members and accused the group of perpetrating 10 murders, including Keira’s slaying and that of acclaimed rapper Renetta “Magnolia Shorty” Lowe.

All but one of those defendants pleaded guilty. The final defendant, alleged 3NG leader Kentrell “Black” Hickerson, was convicted of racketeering and a heroin conspiracy in a 2016 jury trial and later sentenced to serve 100 years in prison.

But pinning Keira’s death on any individual gang members has proved elusive for prosecutors. One suspected participant, Charles “Buck” Anderson, was killed by fellow gang members a day after the girl’s slaying. Admitted 3NG member Washington “Dumplin” McCaskill acknowledged killing Anderson, saying the group fretted that Anderson would turn state’s evidence and voted to eliminate him.

Prosecutors twice changed course before unfurling charges this year in Keira’s murder, naming five suspected 3NG members. One of those defendants, Kendall Livingston, pleaded guilty in June to manslaughter, admitting his role in an attack aimed for someone else. Charges against the rest remain pending.

According to prosecutors, 3NG targeted rival gangs that included the "Front of Town Killers," the "Calliope Projects Front of Town" and the "A.D." gangs. While 3NG and the Hankton clan both were the subjects of sprawling gang indictments centered around the Central City drug trade, there appears to have been little relationship between the two groups – whether animosity or collaboration – when it came to street violence.

Crimestoppers is offering a reward of $5,000 for any tips that lead to an indictment in connection with Saturday night’s shooting, which is at least the fifth in New Orleans since 2013 to involve at least 10 victims.

Tipsters can call 504-822-1111 and do not have to testify to be eligible for the reward.

Staff writer Matt Sledge contributed to this report.

Follow Ramon Antonio Vargas on Twitter, @RVargasAdvocate.

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