Snipers on the Danziger Bridge?
A story in the Los Angeles Times appears to debunk the "sniper threat" accounts, quoting several citizens who claim to have been shot by police officers. The initial story in the New Orleans Times-Picayune declared that police "had caught eight snipers on the Danziger Bridge, shooting at relief contractors." They then shot to death five or six of the purported marauders in the ensuing gunfight. Later stories revised the account, reporting only two deaths and conflicting testimony as to who they were. Although not disclosed by police, one of the dead is a mentally retarded man, 40 year old Ronald Madison, who was merely seeking food and relief after the flood according to friends and family. Lance Madison, 49, said he and his brother Ronald Madison (deceased), were crossing the Danziger Bridge to reach the safety of a dental office owned by their brother Romell. Romell Madison is a dentist and a prominent community figure who has served on several state commissions, mostly involving healthcare. He said that his brothers, after being stranded for several days on the roof of Lance's apartment building in New Orleans East, were trying to reach his office on the Chef Menteur Highway. Romell confirms that to get there they had to cross the Danziger Bridge. "We ran for our lives," Lance told Chief Orleans Parish Magistrate Judge Gerard Hansen, who presided at the preliminary hearing, where Lance Madison faced eight felony counts for the attempted murder of eight police officers.
The (L.A.) Times reporters also located Jose Holmes Jr., 19; recovering from critical wounds suffered in the shooting, claiming he was shot for no reason at all. Holmes displayed wounds to his arm, neck, chin and stomach. A colostomy bag now drains Holmes' bowels. His left forefinger and thumb are frozen. Doctors told him his hand sustained permanent nerve damage. Holmes states the final shot at him was delivered via an assault style rifle, and at point blank range, despite the fact that he was carrying no weapon himself. Other unarmed victims, Leonard Bartholomew, 44; his wife, Susan, 39; and daughter, Leisha, 17; were also shot by the police. Susan Bartholomew lost an arm to what the family believes was a point blank shotgun blast. The other unnamed dead citizen was a 19-year-old man and a friend of Jose Holmes Jr. "A lot of people were running past us with guns and robbing people in the hotel and stuff," said Jontae Holmes, 16, a niece of the Bartholomews. "Then the generators got messed up and the lights started going off. It was scary." Six days after the storm hit, Jontae said, her aunt and uncle crossed the bridge to retrieve a wallet they had left at home. Susan and Leonard Bartholomew hoped to catch a rescue boat to navigate the still-flooded streets, the teenager said. The Bartholomews' nephew, Jose Holmes Jr. came along, as did one of his friends, another 19-year-old, who planned to search for his missing mother. Several other family members remained at their motel room. Police said Jose Holmes and his friend were among a group of "at least four suspects" near the east end of the bridge who began shooting at officers. When police returned fire, they said, the shooters jumped over a concrete barrier to a pedestrian walkway along the north side of the span. The suspects continued firing from behind the barrier, the police claimed.
There were some terrible, unforgivable acts carried out in New Orleans before, during, and after hurricane Katrina. Not all of those acts were the acts of citizens. The worst looters and rapists were those who looted and raped the US Constitution. The investigation of the NOPD's performance throughout the crisis is ongoing. It was nice of them to be so quick to claim credit for these deaths. It will be difficult to shift the blame.