New Orleans mayor asks for national guard, state police after deadly weekend


By CAIN BURDEAU
Associated Press Writer

NEW ORLEANS- Mayor Ray Nagin asked the governor Monday to send National Guard troops to patrol his city after a violent weekend in which five teenagers were shot to death and a man was fatally stabbed in argument over beer.

"Today is a day when New Orleanians are stepping up. We've had enough," Nagin said. "This is our line in the sand. We're saying we're not going any further."

Nagin said the weekend's slayings were unspeakable and he wouldn't allow criminals to take over at a time when it's trying to rebound from its worst disaster. He said he had spoken to the governor about his request for as many as 300 National Guard troops and 60 state police officers to patrol the city.

The governor's office had no immediate comment Monday.

City leaders convened a special meeting to voice outrage after the killings Saturday in an area near the central business district.

The shootings Saturday _ plus the fatal stabbing Sunday night in an argument over beer _ brought this year's murder toll to 53, raising fears that violence was back on the rise in a city that was plagued by violent crime before Hurricane Katrina drove residents away last year.

Crime has been creeping back into the city: 17 killings in the first three months of 2006, and 36 since the start of April.

At least three other people, ages 16 to 27, have died from shootings in the same area as the killings early Saturday. The five teenagers were in an SUV together when they were caught in one of the bloodiest attacks in this city's turbulent history; the last killing with that many victims was in 1995.

In addition to Nagin's request for troops and state police, the City Council said it would consider increasing overtime for police to put more officers on the street. It also called for a "crime summit" within two weeks.

"We have to deal with it now," Councilman Arnold Fielkow said. "If we don't make people feel safe in their homes, nothing will happen. Let's make this priority Number One."

Cynthia Willard-Lewis, who represents predominantly black eastern New Orleans, said a big part of the solution will be getting young people off the streets and into caring environments such as schools.

She suggested opening schools after hours but didn't say how that could have prevented Saturday's 4 a.m. shooting, which police have said apparently was either prompted by drugs or revenge.

"If we don't have wind knocking us down, we have shooters knocking us down, and that's unacceptable," said City Council President Oliver Thomas.

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