Gary Tuchman | BIO
Four years after Hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast, much of the aftermath is still shrouded in mystery. And that is what brought me to New Orleans this week for a story we are bringing you tonight.
In the days after the storm, doctors tell us they saw an inordinately large number of patients who were brought in to hospitals with gunshot wounds. Many of them were dead or ended up dying.
Because of the chaos in the storm’s aftermath, many autopsy records are incomplete or were never done. So officially, it’s not at all clear what was going on.
Well, one man who was shot twice and lived to tell about it has a theory.
An African-American man named Donnel Herrington says he was attacked by three white men who yelled racial epithets at him, with one of them shooting him in the neck and back. Herrington says the gunmen “were hunting black men.”
A journalist named A.C. Thompson, who writes for the investigative non-profit news organization called ProPublica, has been researching this story for about two years. And he writes in an article in “The Nation” magazine that he has found that “there were a series of attacks (in the mostly white) Algiers Point neighborhood, and these attacks were carried out by an organized group of white residents, and that the targets of their attacks, as far as I can tell, were African-American males.”
Indeed, many men in that neighborhood acknowledge setting up what they refer to as a “private militia.” They armed themselves and vowed that any looter or criminal who endangered them would be risking his or her life.
Herrington says he was merely walking to a ferry boat landing to evacuate the area, and there is no reason to doubt that. But residents of Algiers Point acknowledge that shots were fired by members of their militia because they claim there were looters in the area. But did those shots hit anybody?
In a documentary filmed by a Danish production team in the days after Katrina, several residents of Algiers Point say things like this on camera:
“It was like pheasant season in South Dakota. If it moved, you shot it.”
“You had to do what you had to do. If you had to shoot somebody, you shot somebody. It was that simple.”
“We shot ‘em. They were looters.”
My mission on this trip to New Orleans was to find these people who said these things four years ago, and find out what exactly they meant. Were they serious? Was it alcohol talking? Well, we did indeed find them, and got them on camera. What they told us, we will tell you tonight.
Program Note: Four years after Katrina, what is New Orleans like now? Some residents continue to face challenges as the Big Easy keeps trying to rebuild. Take a look at In Depth: After the Storm. And to learn about ways you can make a difference, visit Impact Your World.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
Questions or comments? Send an email
Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with