18-hour outbreak of violence stuns New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Less than a week after New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu touted a string of peaceful and well-managed city events capped by the BCS championship game, he was back at the podium today trying to reassure residents that an upsurge in violence was being dealt with.

"This is a battle for the heart and soul of New Orleans," Landrieu said about an 18-hour wave of violence that saw 17 people shot and six killed, a lockdown and evacuation of an elementary school, and shots fired at police twice.

In all, 12 people have been murdered in New Orleans in the first 12 days of the year, and at least two dozen, including a 12-year-old girl, have been wounded in shootings.

The string of violence included a gunman opening fire inside a house on Thursday, shooting five people, three of whom died. Police chased down a trio of suspects, and returned fire, killing one man and wounding a man and a woman. Later that night, police headquarters was evacuated with a pair of hand grenades were found in the trunk of the car, although they were later found to be duds.

The shootings involving police may have been sparked by a new, more-aggressive approach by police, said Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas, who categorized it as "taking the fight to the streets."

"We are going after the criminals with an intensity that has not been seen in the last 18 months," he said.

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