It was three days after the levees broke: Thursday, Sept. 1, 2005 — in my limited view, the day things completely fell apart in New Orleans.
The desperation was mounting. The cavalry wasn’t coming, it seemed. We were in it alone.
As we drove up Religious Street, just past the Saulet Apartments, we saw a dicey situation ahead. Police-issue Crown Victorias blocking the intersection. A parked bus and a wrecked limo. And a swarm of police officers in the street, guns drawn, facing the other direction.
Georgiev, a Macedonian national who has spent much of his life covering wars, went into gung-ho mode. He took a right — toward the lake — on Race Street. Then left at the next block, St. Thomas Street. Then left again on Richard. And suddenly, we were right in the middle of chaos.
We saw a man, clad in a white T-shirt, down on the pavement, hands behind his back, not moving. We were both sure he was dead. A lot of agitated police officers hovered around.
It seemed no one noticed, though we were less than 50 feet away. Georgiev shot off a few frames, then started to drive away. As he passed through the intersection, the cops yelled at us to stop. Some had their guns raised. I shouted to stop, and Georgiev did, not as quickly as I would have.
A few cops rushed over and stuck their guns in our faces. I said I worked for the Picayune. I was told to shut up and get out.
They threw us up against a cinderblock wall and frisked us. There was a lot of cursing, and one of the officers mentioned a shootout.
One of the cops grabbed the notebook out of my shorts. They also snatched one of Georgiev’s cameras.
Lying in the weeds
A few months ago, I reached out to Georgiev, who lives in Macedonia, and he sent me two photos of the incident. A closer look at them reveals that there seem to be two guys on the ground, not one. Georgiev’s second shot shows a human form in the street, next to one of the police cars, wearing a red shirt and hidden behind weeds.
As it happens, the existence of a second person squares with the only official account of the incident I’ve been able to get thus far. That account came from Anthony Cannatella, a semiretired deputy chief with 42 years on the force who during Katrina was the commander of the 6th District, where the incident happened.
Cannatella — to his credit, one of the only officers who will talk about any of this — was one of the cops who responded, though I didn’t see him that day. As Katrina descended, Cannatella says he told “his guys” this: “We’re gonna do basic police work until someone comes and relieves us.”
Read the rest of the article here. There are federal grand juries investigating the actions of the NOLA PD after Katrina. How they shot first and never asked questions later. In my heart, I know there were police officers that did the right thing..just as there are police officers who did not. How anyone will be able to separate them, years later, is the $50,000.00 question.
But you really can't put a price on a human life.