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Katrina's Hidden Race War | The Nation

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Katrina's Hidden Race War

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An Algiers Point homeowner who wasn't involved in the shootings describes another attack. "All I can tell you is what I saw," says the white resident, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals. He witnessed a barrage of gunfire--from a shotgun, an AK-47 and a handgun--directed by militiamen at two African-American men standing on Pelican Street, not too far from Janak's place. The gunfire hit one of them. "I saw blood squirting out of his back," he says. "I'm an EMT. My instinct should've been to rush to him. But I didn't. And if I had, those guys"--the militiamen--"might have opened up on me, too."

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About the Author

A.C. Thompson
A.C. Thompson is an award-­winning journalist on the staff of ProPublica

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A federal jury found three New Orleans police officers guilty in the shooting, burning and cover-up of the death of Henry Glover. Two officers were acquitted.

Television news reports are casting new light on the violence that
flourished in New Orleans in the anarchic days after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The witness shows me a home video he recorded shortly after the storm. On the tape, three white Algiers Point men discuss the incident. One says it might be a bad idea to talk candidly about the crime. Another dismisses the notion, claiming, "No jury would convict."

According to Pervel, one of the shootings occurred just a few feet from his house. "Three young black men were walking down this street and they started moving the barricade," he tells me. The men, he says, wanted to continue walking along the street, but Pervel's neighbor, who was armed, commanded them to keep the barricade in place and leave. A standoff ensued until the neighbor shot one of the men, who then, according to Pervel, "ran a block and died" at the intersection of Alix and Vallette Streets.

Even Pervel is surprised the shootings have generated so little scrutiny. "Aside from you, no one's come around asking questions about this," he says. "I'm surprised. If that was my son, I'd want to know who shot him."

By Pervel's count, four people died violently in Algiers Point in the aftermath of the storm, including a bloody corpse left on Opelousas Avenue. That nameless body came up again and again in interviews, a grisly recurring motif. Who was he? How did he die? Nobody knew--or nobody would tell me.

After hearing all these gruesome stories, I wonder if any of the militia figures I've interviewed were involved in the shooting of Herrington and company. In particular, Pervel's and Janak's anecdotes intrigue me, since both men discussed shooting incidents that sounded a lot like the crime that nearly killed Herrington and wounded Alexander and Collins. Both Pervel and Janak recounted incidents in which vigilantes confronted three black men.

Hoping to solve the mystery, I show Herrington and Alexander video of Pervel, Janak and Roper, all of whom are in their 50s or 60s. No match. The shooters, Herrington and Alexander tell me, were younger men, in their 30s or 40s, sporting prominent tattoos. I have not been able to track them down.

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