One week ago, Thursday night, July 1, 2021, at 7:48 p.m., a 911 call alerted the New Orleans Police Department to another interstate highway shooting.
Someone shot a man driving in a westbound lane on Interstate-610 near Paris Avenue. Emergency Medical Services took the victim to a hospital in critical condition.
Three hours later, another random shot struck a man traveling eastbound on I-610 near the St. Bernard Avenue exit, and at 1:30 the following morning, an unidentified assailant shot a woman on Interstate 10 on the Pontchartrain Expressway, somewhere between the Crescent City Connection and the Orleans-Jefferson Parish Line.
Officials released no more details from the shootings, no description of the sniper or sniper vehicle, and no likely motives, nor have they confirmed connections between the shootings.
Authorities are careful not to mention how often these anonymous highway attacks occur. However, since July last year, there has been an average of two shootings per month on two interstate highways near New Orleans.
At a news conference last April, Police Superintendent Shaun D. Ferguson told reporters his investigators found no pattern to the shootings.
“I cannot give you any rhyme or reason behind any of this,” he said, “but we know for sure, a few of them have involved road rage.”
On July 2, the New Orleans Police Department released a written statement saying, “The NOPD investigates incidents such as these on their respective circumstances. Investigators are currently of the belief that these are isolated incidents and, in many cases, crimes of opportunity regarding individuals known to each other.”
In other words, after investigating over two dozen shootings on I-10 and I-610 since July last year, NOPD attributes most (if not all) attacks to road-ragers and gang-bangers. Of the 12 interstate highways across Louisiana, including the four that touch New Orleans, only two have hosted sniper incidents in the past year.
Chief Ferguson has not explained why the other freeways are immune to his department’s fatal drug corridor, road rage theory.
Last month, on June 6, just after midnight on a Sunday morning, gunfire wounded nine people as they stood near the I-10 service road. Paramedics took all victims to the hospital, including one woman in critical condition after the unidentified gunman shot her in the face.
One week later, on a Monday evening, another unidentified shooter on the I-10 High Rise Bridge wounded a 20-year-old driver, shooting him in the leg as he drove I-10 west, near Louisa Street and Pines Village.
On a Thursday evening, May 6, a motorist shot a driver in another car during rush-hour traffic on I-10 south as he traveled eastbound between Oak Harbor Boulevard and Old Spanish Trail. On May 24, a Monday morning, someone shot a man near the 12000 block of the North I-10 Service Road. On May 28, a woman driver turned off I-10 onto Louisa Street. She felt blood and realized someone had shot her. The victim drove herself to a hospital.
In April, a shooter or shooters shot seven people on interstate highways inside New Orleans. At midnight, Friday, April 9, someone shot a 21-year-old I-10 motorist near Morrison Road. One day earlier, someone shot two people on I-610 near the Broad Street exit. On April 26, a Monday night, someone shot an infant boy and teenage girl on I-10 in Gentilly. On April 29, someone shot a 31-year-old woman and a 37-year-old man as they drove over the same I-10 High Rise Bridge.
One month earlier, near 3 a.m. on Monday, March 29, someone shot a man driving westbound on I-10 West near the Metairie Road exit. The victim said another car pulled next to his, and the driver, whom he did not recognize, shot into his door, wounding his wrist and ankle.
In February, a shooter or shooters shot another four freeway travelers. On Feb. 12, NOPD investigated a shooting in New Orleans East where the I-10 Service Road meets Bullard Avenue. Around eight on a Wednesday night, Feb. 24, someone shot a man driving westbound on I-610 near Franklin Avenue.
On a Sunday night around 6, Feb. 28, someone in a passing vehicle shot a 22-year-old man driving on I-10 near the Orleans Avenue exit. Police said a man pulled next to the driver’s side fender and began shooting into the windshield. The shooter drove a dark blue sedan with a Florida license plate.
In 2020, police responded to more than a dozen interstate highway shootings between July and December, most within the city limits of New Orleans. NOPD arrested no one in any of the cases and cannot confirm if the same shooter or shooters orchestrated all attacks.
On July 24, 2020, someone shot a driver where I-10 meets I-610. On July 31, the same thing happened at I-10 and Jeff Davis. The next night, a sniper shot a man in the arm at 12:42 a.m. near the intersection of I-10W and I-610W. On Thursday, July 30, a triple shooting in the westbound lanes of I-10 at the Jefferson Davis Parkway overpass left one man dead and two others wounded.
On Aug. 1, these events repeated at I-10 and Bullard. On Aug. 5, the shooter or shooters hit someone at I-10 and Franklin, and on Aug. 8, it happened at I-10 and Bullard.
Near 2 a.m. on Thursday Oct. 14, 2020, someone shot two men, ages 17 and 21, driving on I-10 near the exits for Esplanade and North Claiborne Avenue. On Oct. 22, someone shot a man at I-10 and Tulane Avenue and a 37-year-old woman on I-10 near South Carrollton Avenue. The next day someone shot another motorist at I-10 and US-90.
The shootings paused in November, starting again on Dec. 3 at I-10 and Crowder. On Dec. 15, someone shot a motorist at I-10 and Orleans. Monday night, Dec. 28, an unknown shooter wounded a man near I-10 East and Bullard Avenue.
The New Orleans Police Department has arrested no one for any of these shootings. NOPD has not confirmed or denied how many of the attacks originate with the same perpetrator. As each of these still unsolved crimes occurred, NOPD said only that the incidents remained under investigation.
Ironically, the United States’ most infamous highway snipers killed only seven people, far less than the number of attacks recounted here. If NOPD can connect even half of these shootings, the wound count of this new I-10 Sniper surpasses that of the D.C. Beltway Snipers.
In 2002, assassins John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo killed 10 people while critically wounding three others along Interstate 95 in Virginia. They fired rifles from a blue 1990 Chevrolet Caprice sedan and their crime spree included armed robberies in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Texas, Washington and Louisiana.
Their victims included John Gaeta of Albany who graduated from Amite High School in 1969. This pair of criminal deviants shot him in the Hammond Square Mall parking lot.
In 2014, Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s deputies may have averted similar attacks in New Orleans. On Metairie Road, near the parish line, deputies pulled over a van and found a loaded .22-caliber rifle and scope wrapped in a piece of carpeting in the back. They also located a black metal silencer in a side compartment.
The driver had mounted wooden kitchen chairs to the cargo area floor, facing out of sliding glass windows. Underneath a sandbag that held one chair in place, deputies found 8 feet of dynamite fuse.
This week, NOPD Police Superintendent Ferguson is certainly not asking himself if sniper attacks can happen here, but hopefully, he is privately considering if they are happening today.
To stop crimes like these, one must first know thy enemy.