Triple shooting leaves grandmother dead outside Morris Jeff High graduation at Xavier University, NOPD says
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A grandmother was fatally shot and two men wounded Tuesday (May 31) when an argument escalated into gunfire in a Xavier University parking lot after a graduation ceremony for Morris Jeff High School, New Orleans police said.
Family members identified the woman that died as the result of the crossfire as 80-year-old Augustine Greenwood.
NOPD Deputy Supt. Christopher Goodly did not disclose the age of the two wounded males, but said their injuries were to the leg and shoulder, respectively, and not considered life-threatening.
Goodly described the incident as a “senseless act of violence,” that began with an argument between two females whose identities and ages were not immediately known. Their argument in the parking lot rapidly escalated until guns were drawn and shots fired, he said. The elderly woman struck was an innocent bystander walking to her family’s car nearby.
“This unfortunate incident did not have to happen,” Goodly said.
Goodly said at least three people were detained for questioning but no arrests had been made.
Dr. Henderson Lewis Jr., superintendent of NOLA-PS, said in a statement, “I am 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 by gun violence. This has got to stop. ... All our children have a right to be safe and we must do all we can in our power to protect that right.”
Morris Jeff’s Head of School Patricia Perkins similarly expressed her horror at what had unfolded after the ceremony.
“This is a horrific tragedy on what should be a day of celebration for our seniors,” she said in a statement. “But Morris Jeff is a strong school community and we will unite to help each other heal. Every day, we teach our children to solve their differences with their words and to be compassionate toward each other. Our graduates will make a difference in this world because they learn to see each other as equal human beings. This resolve is only stronger after today’s violence.”
New Orleans City Councilmember Oliver Thomas, whose children attend Morris Jeff’s high school and middle school, said he was outraged by the incident.
“This lady went to a graduation; she didn’t sign up to be executed,” Thomas said. “How many more people could have been injured? Why did this lady have to give her life because she wanted to see her loved one graduate? Why? What was so big about the argument? What was so profound? What was so devastating about the argument that you had to shoot out there?”
Thomas said we live in a sick time where shooters and killers feel emboldened to do what they want where they want, no matter if security or police are near.
“You can’t go to graduation,” Thomas said. “You can’t go to second line. You can’t go to a birthday party. You can’t go to the restaurant. You can’t go to a bar on Magazine. You can’t go to the gas station. Where? Where can we go?”
Fellow councilmember Eugene Greene said, “It is unnatural and unacceptable for someone to bring a gun to a celebration. This was supposed to be a day when people are celebrating their accomplishments over the years, celebrating and relaxing with friends.
“There has to be a change of the narrative, a change of the culture, if you will, among some people that having a gun at an event such as second lines and graduation celebrations and at events where everybody is going to have a good time is just not acceptable. There is no reason for it.”
Greene said he is calling on District Attorney Jason Williams to prosecute those responsible to the fullest extent of the law to make an example out of them.
The shooting occurred in a parking lot outside Convocation Center, used as the venue for numerous high school graduation ceremonies each spring. Witnesses told Fox 8 that anywhere from 5-12 gunshots rang out.
Goodly said investigators were working to determine how many people fired weapons, who they were, and whether they were students, friends or relatives of graduates. He asked that anyone with information on the shooting to contact the NOPD or Crimestoppers.
“Nobody has been arrested for this crime, at this point,” Goodly said.
This was at least the second high school graduation staged at Xavier to be marred by violence in the past 11 days. On May 20, a fight broke out during the Carver High graduation event, with witnesses capturing a wild fracas inside Convocation Center that involved attendees throwing punches and chairs.
“This graduation, they had a good amount of security,” Goodly said Tuesday. “We had interior coverage as well as exterior coverage on the scene. Both the Xavier police, as well as the (NOPD) Second District and Tulane police on the perimeter security.”
The Carver High incident did not involve gunfire. But it happened the morning after three people were shot and a fourth injured at the May 19 graduation ceremony for Hammond High School at Southeastern Louisiana University on the Northshore.
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell issued a statement that said, “What should have been a celebration that highlights the hard-working students and their families regrettably transformed into another senseless act of gun violence. My condolences, thoughts, and prayers are with the families of the deceased victim and all the victims impacted by the tragic events at Xavier University today. ... Gun violence continues to plague our city. And we will remain laser-focused on leveraging local and federal partnerships to prioritize initiatives that address prevention strategies.
“However, we also understand that there is a higher degree of personal responsibility that needs to be present in order to de-escalate these situations. As we are seeing all across the country, gun violence is a disease, and the cure requires a collaborative approach involving each of us coming together to make our streets safer.”
Governor John Bel Edwards also issued a statement, calling Tuesday’s graduation shooting “senseless” and assuring those responsible 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. In light of recent gun violence in Buffalo and Uvalde, gun safety discussions and action involving expanded background checks and red flag laws are very much in order.”
Greenwood is New Orleans’ 121st homicide victim in the first 151 days of this year. Less than five months into 2022, the city already has eclipsed the 119 homicide victims recorded in the entirety of 2019.
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