Two California Highway Patrol officers from NoCal are going to be fired for shooting one or more alligators while "helping out" in Louisiana. There's no word on whether they're going to claim they fired in self-defense. In any case, the major issue seems to be that they shot their service weapons without reporting it.
An internal investigation within the Baton Rouge Police Department triggered by complaints from out-of-state law enforcement agencies that helped with storm detail has concluded that city officers did not break the law, police say.
But violations of department policies and procedures were found, authorities said Monday.
During a news conference, Police Chief Jeff LeDuff would not say what prompted New Mexico State Police and Michigan State Police to refuse to patrol with his officers after Hurricane Katrina. He said only that "nothing was found to be criminal" and that "everything involved policy and procedure."
In September, the two agencies ordered their troopers to stop working with Baton Rouge police after witnessing them commit acts they considered misconduct.
Let me summarize "After Blocking the Bridge, Gretna Circles the Wagons":
Gretna passed a resolution supporting the decision to block the bridge...
Gretna is 2/3 white, blue-collar, and has had an occasionally troubled relationship with NO...
They helped bus 5000 NOers out, but then the strain got too much...
... After someone set the local mall on fire Aug. 31, Gretna Police Chief Arthur S. Lawson Jr. proposed the blockade...
Gretna is not the only community that views New Orleans with distrust. Authorities in St. Bernard Parish, to the east, stacked cars to seal roads from the Crescent City. But Gretna's decision has become the symbol of the ultimate act of a bad neighbor, gaining notoriety partly from an account in the Socialist Worker newspaper by two San Francisco emergency workers and labor leaders who were in a crowd turned back by Gretna police.
The fact that Gretna's decision might not be mostly based on race seems to elude the Times' crack reporter, as he finds that some Gretnaians are afraid of NO...
Then, the LAT has a little new information:
Like New Orleans, Gretna lost power and water. Town officials pleaded unsuccessfully for help from the state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Then they learned that New Orleans officials had told the thousands trapped in that city's downtown, similarly deprived of food and water but also dodging gunfights and rising floodwaters, to cross to Gretna.
This happened a few days before "the incident". Gretna organized buses on Aug. 31 to take evacuees to a food distro center in Metairie. But, people clogged up at the bridge, and things started to spiral out of control.
There were looters and a fire at the mall, and the sheriff decided that was it.
"I said: 'There will be bloodshed on the west bank if this continues,' " Harris recalled. " 'This is not Gretna. I am not going to give up our community!' "
The following morning, Gretna's police chief made his decision: Seal the bridge.
Regarding the gunshots:
Chief Lawson said that he was unaware of any of his officers shooting over the heads of evacuees on the bridge but said that one black officer did fire a shot overhead to quiet an unruly crowd waiting to board a bus.
Overall, I'm going to give the LAT a higher score on this than the NYT, which simply regurgitated the socialist's original screed.
CNN offers their take in "Racism, resources blamed for bridge incident". It doesn't appear to be original reporting so much as a compilation of what was said on various CNN shows including Anderson Cooper and Aaron Brown.
Gretna police chief Arthur Lawson says that Gretna was locked down, and had no resources to take care of thousands of evacuees. He also says he hasn't spoken to the officers involved about this, but CNN also says, "to his knowledge, no officers fired shots near the crowd."
CNN also extensively quotes Lorrie Beth Slonsky and Larry Bradshaw, the paramedics and authors of the most-quoted report.
However, oddly enough!, no form of the word "socialism" appears in the CNN report. Isn't that a bit... odd?
As a semi-reputable news organization, shouldn't CNN at least spend a couple seconds wondering whether the Slonsky/Bradshaw report has been, er, enhanced by their own ideological leanings, whatever they may be?
Here's an example: let's say former presidential candidate Michael Badnarik had written a report like this, but instead of extolling the "working class" he had talked about "state violence" or "statists" or discussed how he had used Atlas Shrugged as a pillow.
In that case, wouldn't CNN question whether he was seeing things through distored glasses?
Oops, I just realized that I made a mistake above: CNN isn't even semi-reputable.
This one was posted on Sep. 8 and is called "Surviving hurricane no vacation for tourist":
On Aug. 30, the group tried to rent a bus, but the plan fizzled.
"We heard FEMA confiscated the buses for their own use," he said.
The streets were becoming more dangerous, with looters roaming around. "We could hear gunshots in the distance," [Clarkston MI resident Michael McCarthy] noted.
While other parts of the city were flooded from broken levees, McCarthy's group was not affected.
Nonetheless, on Thursday, Sept. 1, the hotel closed.
"The staff gave us a bottle of water, encouraged us to go to the convention center, and wished us luck" he said.
About 50 hotel guests, including the 12 from Michigan, left together "for safety reasons," McCarthy said.
As they were walking, a police officer advised them not to go to the convention center. Then another officer steered them toward a ferryboat loading dock, across from a police command building.
Hearing hot meals were being served over a bridge, the group was headed that way when they spotted thugs wielding golf clubs.
"The locals said, 'They're letting the white people out,' " McCarthy recalled. "I felt very, very bad."
The group wasn't all white, he reports. "We had people from Holland, Brazil, Turkey, Chile and Australia, and several African-Americans."
As McCarthy's group crossed the bridge, a police officer fired a shot over their heads. The group turned back and stayed overnight on the loading dock. McCarthy stuffed his credit cards in his sock. He learned later there had been a riot of some kind near the bridge.
The situation felt "very primal," he said. If they had to go to the bathroom, the people did so outdoors, he said.
On Friday [Sep. 2], the group was taken by bus to a staging area in Jefferson Parish, about 30 miles outside of New Orleans. From the bus, McCarthy saw "all these poor, desperate people trying to get out of the city," he said.
At the staging area, the group found itself part of a crowd of 15,000.
"I never have seen such filth in my life," McCarthy said of the debris. He avoided the two portable toilets.
But McCarthy noticed a flurry of activity at this location.
"Helicopters were landing every 10 to 20 seconds, taking people out and bringing supplies in," he said.
The bedraggled group was given military meals and water, and at nightfall two buses came to give them rides.
"One of the parishes had heard about our plight and had donated the buses," he said. "People thought we were getting preferential treatment and we may have been."
McCarthy could hear shots being fired as the buses pulled away. "People in the camp had weapons," he said. "We all ducked down, but nobody was hurt."
The group - referred to in the local press as the "stranded tourists" - was taken to Alexandria, La., where they found a hotel around noon on Saturday.
On Sunday at 6 a.m., the group flew out of the state, landing in Detroit around 8:30 a.m.
Looking back, McCarthy stresses the tourists had it "a lot better" than the locals did.
"Those poor people sat in deplorable conditions surrounded by rotting corpses and violent looters."
..."FEMA, New Orleans and the state are all partially to blame. There is enough blame to go around..."
The NYT article "Police in Suburbs Blocked Evacuees, Witnesses Report" discusses the strange incidents on the Crescent City Connection, over which evacuees from New Orleans tried to get to promised safety in Gretna. See Gretna Police "trapped survivors in New Orleans" for the more trustworthy UPI version of events, and see "Building communism under the overpass" for the original screed which the NYT article claims to confirm.
While I don't doubt that the paramedics' tale is more or less accurate, it's the "less" part I'm concerned with. What parts of their tale are true, what parts are lies, and what parts are embellished? The fact that the NYT doesn't approach their tale with any shred of skepticism tends to make me... even more skeptical.
Should I trust what the (apparent) socialists have to say? Should I trust the NYT's "confirmation" of what they say? Unfortunately, I can't do that. I'm waiting for a more trustworthy source to find out exactly what happened.
Also see: A little more on the Gretna Police chief and Did LA state employees block the exit from New Orleans?
There's a video of Geraldo Rivera and Shepard Smith begging the local (and perhaps state) authorities to let people get out of New Orleans over the Crescent City Connection. The shoot date is Sep. 2, and it appears both were near the Connection.
Geraldo refers to the Interstate and a WalMart on the other side of the river, and says there are thousands of people there.
Shep refers to a "checkpoint" at the Connection, saying it's the only way out and that "anyone who walks up to it is turned around".
This is much more believable than the NYT or the socialist version, but neither reporter mentions shots being fired, how many police there are, etc.
The post Gretna Police "trapped survivors in New Orleans" discussed the activities involving the police chief of that town, Arthur Lawson.
This probably has nothing to do with the bridge incident, but this reprinted 2000 AP article (cached here), presumably titled "Sheriff opens video casino", discusses several Louisiana sheriffs who own various ventures:
GRETNA, La. Sat May 6.- A sheriff has joined family and business partners in opening a truck stop with plans for a video poker casino.
Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee, the managing partner in the venture, said he hopes to install up to 50 video poker machines in a new truck stop along a major thoroughfare in Avondale.
...The Legislature debated the issue in early 1992 and barred state troopers from holding video poker licenses because the State Police directly oversees the licenses. But other police are permitted to go into the video poker business.
Several other public officials own video poker businesses.
Gretna Police Chief B.H. Miller and Deputy Chief Arthur Lawson started Metro Gaming & Amusement Co. in 1992. Two years later, it had 111 machines in 49 local bars and lounges.
In another recent venture, the wife and son-in-law of state Rep. Joseph Toomy, R-Gretna, invested in the LaPlace Travel Center, where Interstates 10 and 55 meet in St. John the Baptist Parish. Toomy said they have applied for a video poker license.
"I'm not aware of any problems that that would present," Toomy said. "It's a legitimate business."
This Louisiana Department of Public Safety page identifies Arthur S. Lawson Jr. as owning 25% of "METRO GAMING AMUSEMENT CO, License Number: 2600600152". Whether that's accurate, whether the person named is indeed the police chief, and whether the company is still a going concern is unknown.
UPDATE: Gosh darn, I see that someone else has already noticed some of the video poker info.
As previously discussed, Gretna Police "trapped survivors in New Orleans". That post contains the following from UPI:
[Chief of the City of Gretna Police Department Arthur Lawson] said that once the storm itself had passed Monday, police from Gretna City, Jefferson Parrish and the Louisiana State Crescent City Connection Police Department closed to foot traffic the three access points to the bridge closest to the West Bank of the riverÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
What the UPI refers to as the "Crescent City Connection Police Department" appears to be actually be the policing arm of the "Crescent City Connection Division". That latter is a division of the Louisiana State Department of Transportion and Development, a state agency.
It's bad enough if a small-town cop did this, but... is the state of Louisiana responsible for trapping these survivors in New Orleans?
For another data point, this 8/29/05 press release from the Louisiana State Police says:
State Police has received updates from parish and local emergency preparedness centers across the southeast region by Hurricane Katrina. The majority of the calls speak to the same issues such as; flooding, road closures, and power outages. Jefferson Parish (east bank and west bank), St. Tammany Parish, and Orleans Parish are still experiencing high winds (35 - 40 mph) and creating a dangerous situation if you are on an overpass or bridge. For that reason State Police is still encouraging everyone to stay where they are and not to attempt to re-enter the Greater New Orleans area until emergency officials have given the all clear...
Roads currently closed by State Police include:
* Jefferson Parish has ordered all roads closed
* LA 1 south of the Leeville Bridge is closed.
* I-10 eastbound into Mississippi is closed.
* US 61 at the St. Charles / Kenner Line is closed.
* Causeway Bridge is closed.
* Crescent City Connection is closed.
* LA 632 in St. Charles parish is not passable.
* US 61 in St. Charles Parish is closed due to the weather.
* The Belle Chase Tunnel is closed due to flooding.
* I-12 at Albany is closed due to down power lines across the Interstate...
Also see "Building communism under the overpass".
Police from surrounding jurisdictions shut down several access points to one of the only ways out of New Orleans last week, effectively trapping victims of Hurricane Katrina in the flooded and devastated city...
"We shut down the bridge," Arthur Lawson, chief of the City of Gretna Police Department, confirmed to United Press International, adding that his jurisdiction had been "a closed and secure location" since before the storm hit.
"All our people had evacuated and we locked the city down," he said.
The bridge in question -- the Crescent City Connection -- is the major artery heading west out of New Orleans across the Mississippi River.
Lawson said that once the storm itself had passed Monday, police from Gretna City, Jefferson Parrish and the Louisiana State Crescent City Connection Police Department closed to foot traffic the three access points to the bridge closest to the West Bank of the river...
[The NO Times-Picayune, WDSU, and other local media said the CCC was the only way out...]
"Evidently, someone on the ground (in New Orleans) was telling people there was transport here, or food or shelter," said Lawson. "There wasn't."
"We were not contacted by anyone" about the instructions being given to survivors to use the bridge to get out of town, he said...
...Lawson says that his officers "acted in the manner they were instructed to" and defends the order to close the bridge as "the right decision."
He said that in addition to his security concerns, an unmoored vessel on the river "raised the threat that it might crash into and breach the levee, which would have flooded Gretna."
He says that his officers did assist about 4000 people who "arrived at the doorstep of (Gretna City)" either by crossing the bridge before it was closed or approaching from another route.
"We commandeered public transit buses and we took them to higher and safer ground" at the junction of Interstate-10 and Causeway Boulevard where "there was food and shelter," he said.
This report seems to have been instigated by the paramedics' "first-hand" report. (UPI wasn't able to contact those authors, they didn't confirm facts other than the bridge matter, and they don't mention the socialism connection.)
Previously: "Gretna Police Dep't blocked NO evacuees".
UPDATE: Now see "Did LA state employees block the exit from New Orleans?"