New Orleans Police Superintendent Warren J. Riley made a Christmas Eve announcement that he will now investigate alleged crimes reported in a story published December 17 by The Nation. The story, “Katrina’s Hidden Race War,” shows how white residents in one New Orleans neighborhood repeatedly threatened and shot at African-American men in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
A New Orleans Police Department press release sent December 24 to the media and local government officials said that Riley “is currently looking into the allegations, and asked if anyone has substantial information relative to any incidents of this type to call the New Orleans Police Department Bureau of Investigations.”
In the Nation article, two African-American shooting victims–Marcel Alexander and Donnell Herrington–describe being blasted with a shotgun by a white man in the Algiers Point neighborhood on September 1, 2005, a few days after the storm made landfall. And several members of a self-styled vigilante group, all of them white, recount a string of shootings targeting African-Americans. “Three people got shot in just one day!” said one of the militiamen.
As documented in the Nation story, Herrington and others approached police officials about the attacks. But Riley claimed that the NOPD was unaware of this violence prior to the story’s publication. The department, according to Riley’s statement, “did not receive any complaints or information to substantiate any of the allegations of racial conflicts or vigilante type crimes in the City of New Orleans including the Algiers Point on the west bank of the City.” NOPD officials declined to respond to a detailed summary of each incident documented in the Nation article over a period of months.
The product of an eighteen-month investigation, “Katrina’s Hidden Race War” was underwritten by The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund, with additional support by ProPublica. A companion web video can be seen here.