“Police shot and killed at least five people Sunday after gunmen opened fire on a group of contractors traveling across a bridge on their way to make repairs, authorities said.
Deputy Police Chief W.J. Riley said police shot at eight people carrying guns, killing five or six.
Fourteen contractors were traveling across the Danziger Bridge under police escort when they came under fire, said John Hall, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers.
They were on their way to launch barges into Lake Pontchartrain to help plug the breech in the 17th Street Canal, Hall said.
None of the contractors was injured, Mike Rogers, a disaster relief coordinator with the Army Corps of Engineers, told reporters in Baton Rouge.
The bridge spans a canal connecting Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River.
No other details were immediately available.”
“Police shot eight people carrying guns on a New Orleans bridge Sunday, killing five or six, a deputy chief said. A spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers said the victims were contractors on their way to repair a canal.
The contractors were walking across a bridge on their way to launch barges into Lake Pontchartrain to fix the 17th Street Canal, said John Hall, a spokesman for the Corps.
Earlier Sunday, New Orleans Deputy Police Chief W.J. Riley said police shot at eight people, killing five or six.
The shootings took place on the Danziger Bridge, which spans a canal connecting Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River.
No other details were immediately available.”
The Associated Press had severe second thoughts about the first version:
“Stations: The latest New Orleans-datelined urgent series Hurricane Katrina-Shootings has been KILLED. The Army Corps of Engineers says the contractors were shot at, then police fatally shot the gunmen who’d fired on the contractors. The contractors were NOT killed.
A kill is mandatory. Make certain the story is not broadcast.A sub will be filed shortly.AP Broadcast News Center – Washington”
The difference between the two AP stories is that one story has the police shooting and killing armed contractors, while the later story has them shooting and killing people who were shooting on armed contractors. A fairly significant change.
Reuters has what appears to be an even later version (or here) of the story:
“New Orleans police killed four looters who had opened fire on them on Sunday as rescue teams scoured homes and toxic waters flooding streets to find survivors and recover thousands of bloated corpses.
A fifth looter was in critical condition but no more details were available about the incident in a city where authorities are slowly regaining control after a wave of looting, murders and rapes in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
‘Five men who were looting exchanged gunfire with police. The officers engaged the looters when they were fired upon,’ said New Orleans superintendent of police, Steven Nichols.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contractors working on a levee breach were fired on by gunmen but no one was hurt, said the Corps’ Mike Rogers. It was not clear if the two incidents were connected.”
So now it appears there were two incidents, one where U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contractors were fired upon but no one was hurt, and one with no contractors, where police killed looters who were firing at them. The incident appears to have been reported on Australian television, together with the sound of live gunfire.
Quite the story. It made a considerable impression on various right-wing bloggers, who felt it showed how these dangerous black looters were so evil that they were preventing repair of the levees in order to keep the city flooded so they could continue looting. When you think about it, that theory seems to give the looters a degree of planning and organization which is not credible. It makes more sense that the police would get into a gunfight with looters, or even use the excuse of looters to explain why they killed a lot of people, but how then did the AP get the whole story so wrong – twice! – by adding the contractors to the mix?
It was a big day at Danziger Bridge. Later in the day a helicopter crashed there. From USA Today (or here):
“. . . in the evening, a civilian helicopter crashed near the Danziger Bridge, but the two people on board escaped with only cuts and scrapes, according to Mark Smith of the state office of emergency preparedness.”
More, from CNN (more CNN here):
“On Sunday, a helicopter that had been involved in rescue operations crashed northwest of New Orleans.
No evacuees were on board the Eurocopter AS 332 Super Puma and the pilot and crew were rescued safely, according to an official with Helinet Aviation Services, which had a chopper flying above the crash site.”
More, again from the AP:
“A civilian helicopter that was not involved in rescue operations crashed in New Orleans on Sunday and the two people on board were slightly injured, a state official said.
The helicopter crashed in the area of the Danziger Bridge, said Mark Smith, spokesman for the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.
‘The helicopter came down hard and rolled over on its side and broke its blades off and broke its tail off,’ Smith told reporters in Baton Rouge.
‘There were two civilians on the helicopter. Both sustained cuts and scrapes,’ he said.
It was not known why the helicopter was in the area, Smith said.
The US military and Coast Guard have conducted hundreds of helicopter flights in the New Orleans area in recent days searching for Hurricane Katrina survivors and have rescued thousands of storm victims.
Early media reports said the crashed aircraft was a Coast Guard helicopter.
Live television footage from the scene showed the red helicopter lying on the ground near a roadway, with smoke drifting from its cockpit. The ground around the wreck was blackened and churned up by the aircraft’s rotor blades.
Smith said he did not know if shots had been fired at the helicopter. Gunfire has been reported on numerous occasion in the New Orleans area in recent days.
‘It could have been mechanical failure,’ he said.”
So now a coast guard helicopter has morphed into a civilian helicopter, which is showing a peculiar fascination with the Danziger Bridge. This mysterious helicopter was also described as a ‘rescue helicopter’ and a ‘Coast Guard Super Puma helicopter”:
“A rescue helicopter has crashed in New Orleans, US television networks say.
The two crew members from the Coast Guard Super Puma helicopter were safe, MSNBC said.
Live television footage from the scene showed the red helicopter lying on the ground near a roadway, with smoke drifting from its cockpit. The ground around the wreck was blackened and churned up by the aircraft’s rotor blades.”
This is an awfully specific description to be wrong. On the other hand, the Coast Guard doesn’t appear to use the Super Puma, but rather another Aerospatiale product called the Dolphin. Of course, the Coast Guard might have contracted with somebody with a Super Puma, so you never know. You have to wonder why a rescue helicopter was flying around the Danziger Bridge, not a residential area where there would be somebody in need of rescue, and on all accounts a dry enough area for quite a bit to be going on.
Some good questions from Nur al-Cubicle:
“For certain, the Danzinger Bridge is nowhere near the breaches nor should the industrial area be a magnet for looters looking for television sets.”
“The implication is that something is occuring on and near the Danziger Bridge which is both extraordinary and alarming. A simple mind says the helicopter was a news aircraft gone out to follow up on the shooting and was forcefully not permitted to photograph. A dull person could think that 3:00 pm in the afternoon is an odd hour to be on foot in the hot Gulf sun and rather late in the day to be getting around to starting repairs on breached levees. A disinterested so-and-so might wonder about the police escort after having heard press accounts of the reduction of New Orleans police to skeleton crew on the point of exhaustion.”
I would add that it is an odd way to make repairs in a breech in the 17th Street Canal by launching barges into Lake Pontchartrain.
My best guess is that the police killed some people and used the Army contractor story to cover it up. The victims are unlikely to have been looters, but may have used guns in self-defense. The police story inadvertently disclosed that people working for the army were up to some mysterious job, a job that was supposed to be a secret. The helicopter went to take a look at what was going on, and was shot down. Discrepancies in the official story are starting to lead to theories that at least some levees and floodwalls were intentionally destroyed, theories that gain some credence in that even the experts are baffled at what happened to the floodwalls. Its a bit too convenient that storm surge gauges stopped functioning during a . . . storm surge, thus removing inconvenient questions about how a nine foot storm surge went over a wall designed to stop an 11.5 foot storm surge.