Investigators work the scene of a shooting in New Orleans. Picture: Matthew Hinton /The Advocate via AP

New Orleans - Two armed individuals walked up to a crowd gathered Saturday evening outside a strip mall in New Orleans and opened fire, killing three people and wounding seven more, the police chief said.

The shooting happened on a busy thoroughfare about 3 miles (4.83 kilometres) from the French Quarter, police said.

Police chief Michael Harrison, speaking to reporters late Saturday in televised comments, said the two suspects believed to be wearing hoodies had a rifle and a handgun. He said they appeared to have fired indiscriminately into the crowd, striking ten people. Before fleeing they took time to stand over one person.

"We believe that they actually stood over one of the individuals and fired multiple rounds and then after that fled," he said.

Police responding to the shooting found three victims - two men and one woman - who were pronounced dead at the scene. Seven other victims - five men and two women - were taken to two separate hospitals. Four of them were driven in private vehicles, and three were transported by ambulance.

People react at the scene of shooting in New Orleans. Picture: Matthew Hinton /The Advocate via AP

Harrison said one underwent surgery and was in critical condition; the other six were in various conditions but none were considered life-threatening.

Harrison spoke with family members and friends at the scene of the "volatile and tense situation." He called on people to come forward and help police find the killers and also asked people not to take matters into their own hands.

"This was an extremely tragic incident. A lot of people were out here tonight. A lot of people, we know, saw what happened, heard what happened. And we need more than anything for people to come forward to help the NOPD right now solve this case," Harrison said.

He said police do not know whether it was gang-related.

People react at the scene of a shooting in New Orleans. Picture: Matthew Hinton /The Advocate via AP

Lawrence Russo was buying a scratch-off ticket at a nearby gas station when he heard what he at first thought were firecrackers before he realized they were gunshots. He told

"They never stop killing each other," he said, shaking his head as he spoke.

Near the scene of the shooting, beyond the police tape, people could be seen crying and hugging one another in comfort.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell said in a statement: "There is no place in New Orleans for this kind of violence. I speak for everyone in our City when I say we are disgusted, we are infuriated, & we have had more than enough. Three more lives — gone. It has to end. It's unacceptable anywhere."

AP