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Nine bystanders wounded in shootout on New Orleans' Bourbon Street

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[June 30, 2014]  (Reuters) - Two gunmen opened fire on one another during a dispute on New Orleans' famed Bourbon Street early on Sunday, wounding nine people in the area, police said.

Two victims were in critical condition and six were stable, the New Orleans Police Department said. The condition of the ninth victim was unknown. The two gunmen, who do not appear to have been hurt, were being hunted by detectives.

The shootout happened around 2:45 a.m. local time after the men engaged in a verbal dispute that escalated, the department's superintendent, Ronal Serpas, told reporters.

"These are two cowardly young men who chose to settle a dispute with total disregard for human life," Serpas said.

"Our officers are working around the clock to identify and arrest the suspects. ... We will hold them accountable and we will bring them to justice."

Bullets ricocheted up and down the street in front of Pat O'Brien's bar and jazz venue Preservation Hall, two well-known New Orleans haunts, the Times-Picayune newspaper said.

One witness told local broadcaster WWLTV he heard the two men arguing before the shots rang out.

One of the suspects pulled a gun out "and started shooting at the guy, then turned around on the crowd and started shooting at us," the man told WWLTV.

Bourbon Street runs through the heart of New Orleans' oldest neighborhood, the French Quarter, a prime tourist destination packed with bars, restaurants, clubs and souvenir shops.

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The police department said three officers who were patrolling in the area responded immediately, and that more officers responded within four minutes of the first call.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said the city's historically high murder rate had been brought down to near a 30-year low, and that authorities would not rest until the suspects were in custody.

"I am confident that between video evidence and eyewitness accounts, we will bring the perpetrators to justice," he said.

"These kinds of incidents will not go unanswered."

(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere in New York and Daniel Wallis in Denver; Editing by Colleen Jenkins, John Stonestreet, Matthew Lewis and Paul Simao)

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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