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A New Orleans Police car drives down Canal Street during Hurricane Katrina on Aug. 29, 2005. An ongoing investigation examines the actions of police officers in New Orleans during the aftermath of the hurricane.
A New Orleans Police car drives down Canal Street during Hurricane Katrina on Aug. 29, 2005. An ongoing investigation examines the actions of police officers in New Orleans during the aftermath of the hurricane. Chris Graythen/Stringer/Getty Images
Five days after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans police officers shot and killed two civilians and wounded four others on the Danziger Bridge, which connects two predominantly black neighborhoods in New Orleans.
What happened on the bridge on Sept. 4, 2005 — and what New Orleans police officers allegedly did afterward to cover up the shootings — is at the center of Law & Disorder, an ongoing online investigation by reporters from ProPublica, The Times-Picayune and PBS' Frontline. A Frontline documentary about what New Orleans law enforcement did and didn't do in the days following Katrina will air August 25 on PBS.
The online and video project examines several violent incidents between civilians and members of the New Orleans police department that left at least four people dead in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Six cases — including the shootings at the Danziger Bridge and the death of Henry Glover — are examined in great depth.
Reporter A.C. Thompson of ProPublica is one of the investigative journalists who spent the past several years piecing together what happened in the days after the hurricane. He joins Fresh Air to talk about the violent encounters he has investigated and the difficulties he encountered while trying to obtain information from the New Orleans Police Department.
He explains that on Sept. 2, 2005, the incinerated remains of Henry Glover were found in a burned-out car in New Orleans. Glover had been shot multiple times. When Thompson started investigating what happened to Glover, he discovered that the New Orleans Police Department had never conducted an investigation.
A.C. Thompson is a reporter for ProPublica.
A.C. Thompson is a reporter for ProPublica. Lars Klove
An indictment released this past June, he says, may reveal why. The 11-count indictment indicates that police officers shot Glover and then set his corpse on fire before attempting an extensive cover-up.
"With the Henry Glover matter, the police department told me at first that they knew nothing about it. They knew nothing about it. There was no information about it," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "When you look at that case, Henry Glover's mother went to the police department and said, 'My son, I believe he was shot. I don't know where he is. I don't know whether he's alive or dead. I think he's probably dead. Can you figure out what happened?' And what we now know is that the police department, instead of following up on her worry ... they either did nothing or they actively made sure that report didn't go anywhere and nobody followed up. And that's the kind of stuff you encounter in New Orleans."
A.C. Thompson has been a reporter for 12 years. He received the George Polk Award for local reporting in 2005. He has written for SF Weekly and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. He is also the co-author of the book Torture Taxi: On the Trail of the CIA's Rendition Flights.