At least three people were shot, including one fatally, during a graduation ceremony in New Orleans’ Xavier University on Tuesday, officials said.
An elderly woman was shot and killed, while two men were injured after a gun battle broke out during the conclusion of the ceremony, police and witnesses recalled to local news outlets.
A fight occurred between two women when someone opened fire, police told WSDU-TV. The men suffered non-life-threatening injuries after being shot in the shoulder and leg, respectively, while police said they detained at least three suspects.
“My friend’s grandma got shot, man,” a witness told WSDU of the elderly woman who was fatally struck. “She got shot right there in the street like she was a dog or some [expletive], man.”
The age and identity of the slain woman were not disclosed. The identities of the individuals who were arrested were not disclosed, either.
Several firearms were also recovered by the New Orleans Police Department, officials said.
Police Deputy Superintendent Christopher Goodly told Fox8 that the incident was a “senseless act of violence,” that started with an argument. It rapidly escalated until guns were drawn and shots were fired, he said, adding that it is believed that the elderly woman was a bystander who wasn’t involved in the fracas.
“This unfortunate incident did not have to happen,” Goodly told the station.
Henderson Lewis Jr, the head of a school system in New Orleans—one of the most violent cities in the United States—issued a statement saying he is “outraged and saddened by the callousness shown today outside Xavier University.”
“The graduating seniors of Morris Jeff were there to share in their collective achievements and bask in the brightness of their futures—only to have their optimism ripped apart,” he remarked.
And Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, said that “those who perpetuate these senseless acts of violence will be brought to justice. We must do more to keep our communities safe, and this means we must do more to ensure that those who pose an unacceptable risk of harm to others aren’t able to acquire or keep firearms.”
Meanwhile, on May 19, a fight broke out at the Southeastern Louisiana University campus after the Hammond High School graduation, officials said. It lead to a shooting that injured three people. A 20-year-old male was arrested.
The woman’s death at Xavier University marks the 121st homicide recorded in New Orleans in 2022 to date. According to a recent WSDU analysis, New Orleans appears to have the highest murder rate among big cities in the United States.