Five teenagers were shot to death early on Saturday, a mass murder not seen in this violence-prone city since the mid-1990s.
"We have had five murders at one time before, even six and maybe seven," said Jimmy Keen, the recently retired commander of the New Orleans Police Department's homicide division.
In one mass murder during the mid-1990s, a family was slaughtered around Christmas.
In a separate case, at least six people in a house were slain in a drug-related killing, Keen recalled. That incident became known as the "North Roman Street Massacre," other observers recalled.
New Orleans long has had a reputation for violence, and is frequently listed in the top five most violent cities in the United States.
"In 1994, when we were the nation's murder capital, we had 21 murders in one week," Keen recalled.
In Saturday's bloody attack, five teenagers, aged 16 to 19, died of multiple gunshot wounds, according to police.
Three were found dead inside a sports utility vehicle that had crashed into a utility pole shortly after 4:00 am at an intersection in an impoverished Central City neighbourhood.
The fourth victim died on a sidewalk. And the fifth teen was found lying in the street not far away. He was taken to a hospital where he later died.
The names of the five victims were being withheld pending notification of next of kin.
Fourteen hours after the slayings, the intersection had been cleared of yellow crime-scene tape and police cars. Two elderly men sat on a stoop outside listening to a boom box recording of soul singer James Brown wailing his classic hit, "I Feel Good."
"We still don't have any suspects, witnesses or motives at this time," New Orleans police spokesman Garry Flot said.
"This should be a surprise, but it isn't," said local criminologist Peter Scharf, who recently predicted a rise in murders as more people return to the storm-shattered city.
But Scharf, director of the University of New Orleans' Center for Society, Law and Justice, suggested the mass killings had the markings of a drug-related crime.
"There have been rumblings of gang violence," Scharf said.
Many youths returning to New Orleans after the mass evacuations when the powerful Hurricane Katrina smashed ashore last August have easier access to guns and drugs than schools, he said.
Many of the churches and communities that had served as a deterrent against crime have not been revived since Katrina.
"My fear is that the struggle for drug turf is beginning not ending," Scharf said.
Source: China Daily