Review: Shots on the Bridge: Police Violence and Cover-Up in the Wake of Katrina

shots on the bridge

Shots on the Bridge: Police Violence and Cover-Up in the Wake of Katrina

by Ronnie Greene
Beacon Press (Published 08/08/2015), Hardcover, 256 pages

Nearly 10 years after Hurricane Katrina pummelled the Gulf Coast, all but destroying the city of New Orleans, Shots on the Bridge by Ronnie Greene revisits the Danziger Bridge shooting, the outcome of a police action gone terribly wrong days after Hurricane Katrina battered the city into submission. The result left 2 innocent people dead riddled with bullets, and 4 critically injured, including one woman having her arm literally blown off by NOPD  officers, who were answering an erroneous emergency call claiming that an officer was under fire.

Utilizing thousands of pages of court documents, including transcripts of the hours of testimony, and interviews with key subjects, Ronnie Greene is able to vividly describe the incident, the cover-up, and the trial, as well as the intricate political climate of past decades- a political climate that some claim  contributed to the events of Sept. 4th 2005.  The author offers the reader a biography of each of the participants- from the NOPD officers accused of gunning down unarmed hurricane victims, to the lawyers, judges and politicians, as well as the victims and witnesses (real and manufactured).

Greene’s storytelling ability combined with his scholarship meld effortlessly, leaving us an exciting read, as well as a complete report of this heinous crime committed against desperate, disaster victims who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. The crime itself, the killing of two and wounding of four, as explained by the defence team, can be attributed to the conditions the police were left in during the aftermath of the storm. No equipment, no supplies, no vehicles or communication, and most importantly- no leadership. Mayor Ray Nagin, and Police Commissioner Eddie Compass dropped the ball during Katrina and it’s aftermath- they had no viable plan for this eventuality.

This is troublesome on many levels, especially when the history of major hurricanes in the region goes back many decades. You would assume that a well thought out plan would be in place. We know now that this was not the case. Having said this, the segment of people who claim that the Mayor, and the Commissioner are just as responsible as those who pulled the trigger may have a valid point.

The fear and isolation experienced by the police, some of whom had lost everything in the storm, paired with the many false claims of rape and murder throughout the city, put forth by none other than Mayor Nagin and Eddie Compass, may have indeed contributed to the atmosphere that brought about this incident. That argument is not that far fetched when you examine all of the elements involved.

It is the second crime committed by the NOPD that should damn them. That crime was the attempt (a poor attempt to be sure) to cover up their terrible mistake. This is what this is all about-the fact that the officers involved conspired to hide the truth, while branding the victims as criminals who fired first,which was an outright fabrication. If it can be believed, this case is still ambling on to this day, even though some officers have come forth to tell the truth. If this erases your faith in Karma, consider the fact that former Mayor Ray Nagin is currently in jail serving 10 years for bribery and conspiracy, among other crimes. Small consolation for those impacted by this unfortunate experience.

With the 10 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on the horizon, Shots on the Bridge is a timely reminder of how leadership in our cities can disintegrate rapidly during  major disasters. It is also another example of police violence against the people they are sworn to protect.  Greene presents a well written account of the events, as well as the issues responsible for the outcome on the Danziger Bridge in East New Orleans, and the effects that are still being felt by many today. Highly recommended to all readers.

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July 9, 2015 · 8:08 am

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