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People pulling car handles, a witness saw them, shots were fired and judge's mom was struck in her car

Immediately after that exchange, at about 6:38 p.m., a barrage of about 12 gunshots broke out.

NEW ORLEANS — The mother of New Orleans Criminal Court Judge Robin Pittman was shot and critically wounded Thursday near her home in eastern New Orleans, the apparent victim of stray bullets aimed at someone else, according to witnesses and security camera video of the shooting.

The gunshots came from a group of would-be car burglars who were caught pulling on door handles in the 5900 block of Babylon Street in the Pines Village neighborhood of eastern New Orleans.

A witness caught the burglars in the act. Security camera video caught this exchange between the witness and one of the gunmen as they walked away.

Witness: “I'm calling the police.”

Gunman: “We're going to shoot those people up,”

Witness: “I'm calling the police. They're on their way.”

Immediately after that exchange, at about 6:38 p.m., a barrage of about 12 gunshots broke out. Security video from down the block shows the bright muzzle flashes and caught the crack-crack-crack of rapid-fire gunshots.

Tragically, Judge Pittman’s mother, 73, was driving on the street at that exact moment, heading in the direction of her home less than a mile away. After the gunfire, the victim’s car slammed into a chain-link fence at the corner of Babylon and Dorian streets, then through an empty lot before slowing to a stop.

The courthouse community, despite dealing with the harshest elements of violent crime on a daily basis, was deeply shaken at the news that the judge’s mother underwent emergency surgery after suffering multiple gunshot wounds. One of the wounds was to the stomach, multiple sources said.

“Our prayers are with Judge Pittman and her family during this difficult time,” Chief Judge Karen Herman said Friday morning.

As word began to spread Friday morning that the victim was Judge Pittman’s mother, officials privately expressed shock and dismay. Pittman is one of the court’s veteran judges, first elected in 2008.

“This can happen to anybody,” said Rafael Goyeneche, president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, a non-profit criminal justice watchdog group. “This is a news story because it's a family member of a prominent and respected member of our criminal justice community in Judge Pittman, but this scenario plays out every day all over the city.”

The shooters may have been would-be car burglars, but they appeared to be armed to the teeth.

“The firepower that police are experiencing and is fueling the violent crime is something that we haven't seen before,” Goyeneche said. “This is literally a city under siege right now.”

A spokesman for the judge released this statement Friday: “While the family is devastated at what this journey will now mean for them, they remain prayerful for their loved one. For now, they ask for privacy and prayers for their family.”

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