PASS CHRISTIAN -- Several law enforcement agencies are assisting Pass Christian police in the investigation of a post-Mardi Gras parade shooting the police chief has called "a senseless act of violence."
Two men died and four people were wounded by shots fired after the St. Paul Carnival Association's Mardi Gras parade Sunday as hundreds of people in the area ran for safety.
"We have been inundated by tips and are trying to sort out what is third-party information and what is details provided by eyewitnesses," Police Chief Tim Hendricks said Monday.
"A lot of people don't want to be labelled as a snitch, so some of the anonymous calls are hard to sort out until we learn more. What we need is people who saw what happened to perform an act of community service by coming forward to help us bring justice."
Police say anyone with an eye-witness account, pictures or video of the shooting should call police at 452-3301.
More details emerge
The men who died at the scene were identified as Carlos Bates, 29, of Gulfport, and Isaiah Major III, 43, of Bay St. Louis.
The shooting occurred at Lad
nier Road and Davis Avenue, the parade's starting and ending point. The shots were fired just north of the parade route after the last of 90 units had finished their procession.
Police learned of the shooting about 2:52 p.m., 15 minutes after the parade had ended. He said 10 to 25 officers showed up at the scene along with American Medical Response.
Hendricks said it appears two guns were used.
Three survivors were taken to a hospital and a fourth victim later showed up at an emergency room.
Two people remained hospitalized Monday in stable condition. Hendricks said one was shot in the left leg; the other was shot in the left knee. One person released from a hospital Sunday night was shot in the right leg; another was shot in the upper chest.
"It does appear there were some innocent folks who were hit by errant rounds, if you will," he said.
No motive yet
Hendricks said the incident was not racially motivated or related to domestic terrorism, as national media outlets had speculated.
"It had absolutely nothing to do with the parade," Hendricks said.
He also declined to discuss a possible motive, citing the ongoing investigation.
"We've got to be very careful, he said. "We're taking it very slow and methodical. We want to make sure we are doing everything by the book and we are working in concert with the District Attorney's Office."
The area just north of the railroad tracks has been known as a problematic area after the parade, Hendricks said. He has worked numerous parades in his more than 25-year career, but this was his first as the Pass police chief.
"The department normally has two officers assigned to that area," Hendricks said. "Sunday, we had four officers there."
Officers performing traffic control in that area heard the shots and ran to the scene, he said.
Police believe multiple shots were fired during an argument, but no motive has been confirmed.
After the shooting, police said a fight broke out at a house near the scene.
"Officers at the crime scene heard yelling and it appeared there had been a fight at the house," Hendricks said. "We have no reason at this time to believe what happened at the home was connected to the shooting."
A man who heard the shots and witnessed the aftermath told the Sun Herald he and a couple hundred or more people at an adjacent ballfield scattered and ran from the area.
Car towed for evidence
Hendricks said police obtained a warrant to tow a black Buick that had been parked near the crime scene.
"Several people were in that car at one time," he said. "We want to find them and question them about what they saw. We're processing the car for evidence in case there should be a connection."
Hendricks said his department also was inundated by calls Sunday night from national media outlets who were concerned the incident was an act of domestic terrorism or racially motivated.
"We have ruled that out," he said. "That was not the case at all."
The county's law enforcement resources were stretched thin Sunday because of the Pass parade and a parade in D'Iberville. The Pass Christian department, which has the smallest staff in Harrison County, had about 60 officers from several agencies assisting with crowd control and traffic control.
"I want to extend my thanks to all the agencies who had come to help us and who have been assigned to handle different aspects of the investigation," Hendricks said.
"I'd like to have had at least 30 more officers to help," Hendricks said. "Providing crowd control and traffic control for about 50,000 people in a city our size and with our small staff is a major deal. But I'm grateful for the help we had on hand."
The Harrison County Sheriff's Office and Gulfport and Biloxi police departments were among agencies that assisted.
"Our department could not have gotten to this point in the investigation without their commitment and support," Hendricks said at a news conference Monday.
Hendricks called the shooting "an act of horrifying violence" and said police are committed to finding justice for the families and the community
"Our hearts and prayers go out to all who have been affected by this senseless act of violence," Hendricks said.
Mayor Chipper McDermott said he is pleased with the way police responded to the shooting and he has full confidence in them.
The parade, which moved along Scenic Drive across from the beach and on Second Street, was without incident until the shooting.
"We had a great day," McDermott said, "and then this."
Hendricks said the parade was "one of the smoothest in terms of incidents."
"It's just a shame some people have to commit a senseless act of violence at a time when we had about 50,000 people in our city to enjoy the parade," Hendricks said.
How to help
To give a tip, call the Pass Christian Police Department at 452-3301 or Crime Stoppers at 1-877-787-5898. Or text CSTIP plus a message to 274637 (CRIMES) or give a tip online at mscoastcrimestoppers.com. Tipsters can remain anonymous while contacting Crime Stoppers, even if they qualify for a reward of up to $1,000 for a tip leading to an arrest.