New Orleans Attack

05.13.13

New Orleans Shooting: I Saw the Mother’s Day Parade Gunman

Medical student Jarratt Pytell was dancing with the crowd at the Mother’s Day parade when he heard a sound like fireworks. He describes seeing the young gunman—and responding to some of the 19 wounded.

We met up with the second line just past Claiborne and just started dancing. At that time they hadn’t starting marching yet, so we watched some of the little kids dancing and danced along with the music. There were hundreds of people out there. The police had the street shut down, and they led the parade. As it started, we jumped in behind the third band and started dancing down the street. I danced with a mom holding her daughter. I turned and saw my better half, Emily, letting loose like no one was looking. It was the unique New Orleans experience that our friend Matt had wanted to show his mom, who was visiting from out of town. Black, white, young, old, and everyone in between, just dancing in the street and wishing each other a happy Mother’s Day.

The parade was moving back toward the Marigny, and we crawled across Claiborne. The parade took a right onto a side street, and everyone packed in a little closer, so the parade slowed down a bit. We hadn’t quite made it to the next street, Frenchmen, when we heard a sound like firecrackers, like the little Black Cats that explode in quick succession. We were on the left side of the street, about 10 feet from the next block.

That was exactly what I thought it was, just some fireworks. It wouldn’t be out of line. Just then, all the people in the street started moving in one giant wave away from the intersection. Standing about 10 yards away, on the right side of the street at the corner, facing the middle of the street, I saw the shooter. He was a young black kid. Couldn’t have been older than 18, skinny, wearing a white T-shirt and blue jeans, standing with his hand outstretched, firing rapidly into the middle of the street. The shots were coming so fast, it was difficult to tell them apart. The wave of people hit the ground. I landed on top of my friend Matt’s aunt. We were all in a ditch on the side of the street. Right before Emily went to the ground she said, “This isn’t happening.”

The shooting was over very quickly. I told Matt’s aunt that she was OK. Matt was with his mom, and Emily and said they were fine. At that point everyone was getting up from the ground and running away. Matt took Emily and his aunt and mom down the street. I ran toward the injured.

The first lady I saw was on the left side of the street on the sidewalk. She was an older white lady, lying on her back. A young woman was by her side, holding her head. The distal aspect of her left humerus was sticking out of the front of her arm. There wasn’t much blood, so I told the girl to raise the lady’s feet and cover her arm so that she didn’t see it and get scared and go into shock.

The next guy was in the intersection. He didn’t look too bad. He was sitting up and was placing a bandage on his bleeding leg, The third man was lying face down in the street. He was in a bit more pain. He had been shot in the left arm. A bystander had placed a belt on his arm to act as a tourniquet. We got him to turn over to make sure he wasn’t hit anywhere else. A lady came and placed her backpack under his head.

People began returning to the area. There was yelling and crying. Cops had moved in and were calling for backup. The man I was helping had two wounds on his arm. One was through his bicep, and the other on his triceps, and it looked as though the bullet went straight through. He didn’t have a pulse, so I removed the tourniquet, applied direct pressure, and used the belt to hold a towel around his wounds.

He didn’t have a pulse, so I removed the tourniquet, applied direct pressure, and used the belt to hold a towel around his wounds.

Next, back toward where Emily and I had been, was a young lady on her back. Her eyes were open, and she was moving but not really responding. She didn’t have any wounds and wasn’t bleeding, but looked like she might be in a bit of shock or possibly had hit her head. She had a few people at her side. Up the street, I saw a group of people tending to a young lady who was wearing white but had bloodstains everywhere. It looked as if she had been hit in the back. People were there applying pressure to her wounds, and a few others were yelling hysterically into their phones about so-and-so “being shot.”

I went back to the man who had been shot in the arm. There were more people around him. From the ground you could see shell casings all around us, and the injured man was telling people to watch out. EMS arrived. I waved them forward to some of the more desperately injured. Soon after that, the fire department arrived, and a firefighter came and took my spot applying pressure to the man’s arm. By that time, the police had put tape up and were interviewing witnesses. You could see groups of crying people and others standing around, looking shellshocked.

I left after that and started walking back home. A few blocks from our house, I caught up with Emily, Matt, and his family. Everyone was a little shaken. Matt’s aunt had two large welts on her legs, probably from me landing on top of her. A teacher from Emily’s school had fallen and scraped his hand up. His bike was back at the scene, so he was coming to our house to get cleaned up. Emily walked toward me, crying. My hands and arms were covered in blood, and I wanted to give her a hug, but I couldn’t. She said she wasn’t scared at all, just sad. We had just seen two of our students minutes before. This shooting is our first, but that was their neighborhood, where they live and grew up, and it was something they deal with daily.

—with Emily Steffan