Five Bystanders Waiting at New Orleans Bus Stop Shot in Crossfire Between Police and Armed Robbery Suspect

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File photo. New Orleans Police chief Shaun Ferguson said the incident had occurred at roughly 6:45 p.m. after detectives following up on recent armed robberies identified a “person of interest.” iStock

A police shootout between deputies and a robbery suspect yesterday evening resulted in five bystanders being injured in crossfire, law enforcement officials said.

New Orleans Police chief Shaun Ferguson told media that the incident had occurred at roughly 6:45 p.m. after detectives following up on recent armed robberies identified a "person of interest." The bystanders had been waiting at a bus stop at Canal Street and Elk Place.

According to Ferguson, uniformed officers had arrived at the scene after the detectives requested backup. When the uniformed officers tried to engage the suspect for questioning, the person "pulled a weapon out and began firing." The suspect remains unidentified.

Ferguson said Sunday: "One of the uniformed officers and one of the detectives were able to return fire at the individuals, causing a gunfire exchange between two parties

"Five individuals, innocent bystanders, were struck during this gunfire exchange. All are in stable condition with the exception of one, who is in critical condition and is in surgery."

No-one inside the bus was injured in the crossfire.

The gunfire continued down Elk Place toward Tulane Avenue, Ferguson said. When officers from Louisiana State Police arrived—responding to a police alert—they were also fired on by the suspect. One Louisiana State Police officer returned fire, hitting the armed suspect.

The suspect was taken to University Hospital and later pronounced deceased. Officials said a joint investigation remains ongoing and that partners, including the FBI, had been notified. The suspect was linked by detectives to two armed robberies in the 6th district last week.

The police chief confirmed the suspect was on the street when approached, but declined to release any more information. He said it was too early to determine who had hit the bystanders, but defended the police response to the shooting when pressed by reporters on protocol.

"These officers were fired upon first. So, to preserve life, not just their life but the public's life, they had to return fire," he said, later adding: "They had to take action which unfortunately led to the expiration of one of our citizens. This is something these officers are going to have to live with but they are trained to do this and they will continue to do what we do best."

The officers involved were placed on desk duty pending the outcome of the investigation, he said. Ferguson also confirmed reports that one NOPD deputy had been injured while making his way to the scene of the shooting. He was taken to hospital, and remains in a stable condition.

The Times-Picayune reported that the injured officer had hit a tree after appearing to lose control of his unmarked vehicle, citing a witness called Andrew Jones. The car caught fire, it noted.

Jones said: "There was no other vehicle. It looked like the officer, upon putting his sirens on and trying to speed to the other incident downtown, must have just bumped something or gone too quickly and lost control. [It was] a total single car accident. There were other cars but he went around them and spun out after." The officer has not been identified.

According to The Times-Picayune, the Sunday shooting was "one of 10" in the area since Friday. A witness in the latest bus stop incident described it as being like the "Wild Wild West."