ProPublica, Frontline and the New Orleans Times-Picayune are investigating the rash of police shootings after Hurricane Katrina—in one week, police killed and wounded as many as they do in a typical year—and the results are troubling.
Not only were the circumstances of some shootings questionable, ProPublica reports, but “the department performed only cursory investigations before exonerating their fellow officers. ...”
One victim was shot in the back, although the New Orleans Police Department said he was shot in the shoulder. Police told the family of another fatality that he was killed by a civilian. “Family members didn’t know otherwise until they were contacted recently by a reporter,” the report says.
No doubt New Orleans police officers who stuck to their posts and did their best under daunting circumstances ought to be celebrated. They had no communication and no help from the feds and they were trying to keep a flooded city from further harm .
But there are real and urgent questions here about the relationship of an apparently violent police force and the community that are not unique to New Orleans. Los Angeles has wrestled with these demons for decades. The city of Oakland is a war zone. And the list goes on. —PZS
A police officer shot Danny Brumfield Sr. in the back, something NOPD’s homicide detective DeCynda Barnes never learned. Her 12-page report erroneously stated that he was shot in the left shoulder. Under questioning in 2007, Barnes said she never read Brumfield’s autopsy report.
Two police officers shot Keenon McCann repeatedly for brandishing a handgun. But when officers approached McCann, they couldn’t find a weapon. NOPD detectives never questioned civilians who observed McCann’s shooting, and they didn’t know how many times he had been shot or where those bullets struck him, the homicide report indicates.
An officer shot Matthew McDonald in the back with an AR-15 assault rifle, killing the man. McDonald’s relatives, who live in Connecticut, said authorities told them he was murdered by another civilian. Family members didn’t know otherwise until they were contacted recently by a reporter.
Flickr / Corey Ann