Aug 27, 2010 9:55 PM by Alison Haynes
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Federal authorities are investigating
allegations that New Orleans police were told after Hurricane
Katrina to "take the city back and shoot the looters."
Police spokesman Bob Young said Friday that federal officials
have asked police for information and for permission to interview
officers about the alleged orders. The U.S. Attorney's office in
New Orleans and FBI spokeswoman Sheila Thorne refused to comment on
The August 2005 storm flooded 80 percent of the city, knocked
out power and police comv. 20 at Mississipp to widespread chaos.
Looters were photographed carrying merchandise from upscale New
Orleans stores, gunfire could be heard in many areas of the city
and residents were terrified of lawlessness.
In a documentary this week by reporters from The Times-Picayune,
PBS Frontline and ProPublica, several incidents were cited in which
officers claimed they were authorized by police brass to shoot
looters after Katrina.
"In response to the printed and televised interviews published,
I have been contacted by federal authorities who have initiated a
review and inquiry into this matter. Due to this, the NOPD cannot
discuss this matter," Superintendent Ronal Serpas said in a
Attorney Eric Hessler said on Friday he witnessed an interview
shortly after the 2005 catastrophe in which a police captain said
then-deputy superintendent Warren Riley told officers to "take the
city back and shoot looters." Hessler . id Capt. Henry Mendoza
made the statement to two FBI investigators two or three days after
Katrina struck on Aug. 29.
Riley refused to comment on Friday, but has previously denied
issuing such an order.
Reporters for the Frontline report were shown a portion of a
grainy videotape in which Capt. James Scott told officers, "We
have authority by martial law to shoot looters."
There is no provision under the Louisiana Constitution for
martial law, although the governor can declare a state of
emergency, said Loyola law professor Dane Ciolino said.
"The police chief clearly had no power whatsoever to declare
any sort of martial law," Ciolino said. "And the principles and
rules on the use of deadly force can't be changed by the police
chief, the mayor or the governor."
Eleven civilians were shot by police in the week following
Katrina, although just one of them was said to have been looting.
The case is p. 1of at least nine ongoing federal investigations
of the New Orleans Police Department, growing out of Hurricane
Katrina, that have resulted in charges against 18 current or former