5 bystanders wounded in NOPD shootout near Canal Street

NEW ORLEANS-   A shootout between police and a suspected armed robber left five "innocent bystanders" seriously wounded as they stood at an RTA bus stop at the corner of Canal Street and Elk Place.

NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson told reporters that investigators don't know yet whether or not the bystanders were shot by bullets fired by two NOPD officers -- or by the suspect they were chasing.  A Louisiana State Police officer who joined the chase ultimately shot and killed the suspect.

As of Sunday evening (Feb. 17), four of the victims were in the hospital in stable condition and the fifth was in critical condition.

"I want to express our sorrow about innocent bystanders being struck like this," said Supt. Ferguson, "but our officers were doing what they are trained to do."

The NOPD officers are on desk duty- standard procedure after police-involved shootings. Supt. Ferguson said the investigation would be a joint effort between his department and the State Police, and added that the department's federal monitors and the FBI were also involved.

The shootout started at about 6:45pm, just a few feet from the Canal Street sidewalk in front of the Joy Theater. The Saenger Theater is across the street.

WGNO asked Supt. Ferguson why the NOPD officers continued the gunfight with bystanders nearby.

"The biggest thing we need to think about is that these officers were fired upon first," said Ferguson, " so to preserve life-- not just their life but the public's life--they had to return fire."

Mayor Latoya Cantrell, who joined Superintendent Ferguson at Sunday night's press briefing, called the shooting-- and a fatal shooting earlier in the day on Martin Luther King Boulevard in Central City-- part of a "tumultuous weekend."

The Mayor sought to reassure thousands of tourists who are on their way to the city to celebrate biggest days of Carnival leading up to Fat Tuesday.

"What I will say to them is that our officers," she said, "are the world's greatest experts on crowd control..  so we will do our job and we are prepared for Mardi Gras."

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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