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2 slain, 5 hurt in New Orleans neighbourhood shooting, part of violent weekend for city

NEW ORLEANS - A shooting Sunday in a New Orleans neighbourhood that has struggled with crime since being ravaged by Hurricane Katrina left two people killed and five others wounded, including a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old, police said.

The children and another victim from the Lower Ninth Ward neighbourhood were in critical condition, and two other people were stable, police spokesman Frank Roberson said. He didn't immediately release any other information, including a possible motive for the shooting.

The Lower Ninth, a predominantly black neighbourhood less than 5 miles (8 kilometres) from the bustling tourist district of the French Quarter, was overwhelmed by Hurricane Katrina's floods in 2005. It has been one of the slowest parts of the city to recover because many homeowners couldn't afford insurance.

In a separate, unrelated spate of violence, a 20-year-old man shot a friend Sunday morning inside a hotel room at the edge of the Quarter, then killed himself after a three-hour standoff with police, authorities said.

Those shootings happened in a 17th-floor room at The Westin on Canal Street, where four friends from the Lafayette area were staying together for the weekend, Robertson said in a news release.

Three of them came in from partying in the Quarter, waking the fourth about 5 a.m., Robertson said.

He said the man returned to sleep only to be awakened by the plea, "Put the gun down." The 20-year-old, looking "dazed and confused under the influence of some unknown substance," was pointing a gun at their 24-year-old friend, he said.

The older man kept asking his friend to put the gun down, Robertson said, but about 6:30 a.m., the 20-year-old man shot him in the chest. The other two ran for help, hearing a second shot as they fled.

When hotel staff let police into the room, the 20-year-old pointed a gun at them, Robertson said.

The officers backed out and called a SWAT team.

After about three hours of negotiations, the 20-year-old man apparently shot himself and the SWAT team stormed in. He was pronounced dead about 9:55 a.m.

Rescue workers rushed the 24-year-old to a hospital where he was in stable condition Sunday evening.

Police have not identified the men. Lafayette is about 125 miles (200 kilometres) west of New Orleans.

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