Cam Edwards, host of the National Rifle Association's news show, claimed that after Hurricane Katrina residents of the New Orleans neighborhood Algiers "were looking out for each other by walking the streets armed with firearms." But according to a federal hate crimes indictment and numerous media reports, after Katrina white gun-toting vigilantes in Algiers targeted African-Americans with racially motivated violence.
Edwards made the comments about Algiers during "The Armed Citizen Files," a daily segment on his news show Cam & Company that uses anecdotal accounts of self-defense with a gun to create the false impression that guns are used more often to prevent rather than commit crimes. The Katrina comparison came during a discussion of a recent self-defense shooting in Algiers. Edwards praised locals' "attitude of being able to protect yourself and the ones you love," and claimed that individuals used firearms after Katrina to make sure "there was no looting, no robbing, no burglaries."
According to an expose published in The Nation, after Katrina some residents of the largely undamaged Algiers Point -- an affluent "white enclave" in the "predominately black" Algiers neighborhood in New Orleans -- shot African-Americans who passed through the neighborhood while fleeing the historic storm's destruction:
Facing an influx of refugees, the residents of Algiers Point could have pulled together food, water and medical supplies for the flood victims. Instead, a group of white residents, convinced that crime would arrive with the human exodus, sought to seal off the area, blocking the roads in and out of the neighborhood by dragging lumber and downed trees into the streets. They stockpiled handguns, assault rifles, shotguns and at least one Uzi and began patrolling the streets in pickup trucks and SUVs. The newly formed militia, a loose band of about fifteen to thirty residents, most of them men, all of them white, was looking for thieves, outlaws or, as one member put it, anyone who simply "didn't belong."
In Algiers Point during the days after Katrina "at least eleven people were shot. In each case the targets were African-American men, while the shooters, it appears, were all white," according to The Nation.
During the most widely reported incident, three African-American men were shot by white vigilantes as they attempted to flee from their nearby destroyed home to a National Guard evacuation point set up in Algiers Point. One of the men was shot through the throat with a shotgun suffering a torn jugular vein, and only was able to receive medical assistance after returning to his own neighborhood.
The other two men, who were lightly wounded by the shotgun, were captured by several white men, one of whom yelled, "We got you niggers! We got you niggers!" After threatening their lives the two men were allowed to leave Algiers Point on the understanding they would be killed if they returned.
In 2010, Roland J. Bourgeois Jr., accused of shooting the three men, was charged with "committing a hate crime with a deadly weapon and with intent to kill" and other related crimes for his alleged role in the shooting. In 2011, Bourgeois was declared physically incompetent and the trail is currently indefinitely delayed. (According to one local, Bourgeois was also seen running off to shoot a nearby wounded African-American man, yelling to his fellow vigilantes, "I'm gonna kill that nigger," before returning with a bloody hat.)
Locals who spoke to The Nation on the condition of anonymity described how entering Algiers Point while African-American after Katrina could prove deadly:
Some of the gunmen prowling Algiers Point were out to wage a race war, says one woman whose uncle and two cousins joined the cause. A former New Orleanian, this source spoke to me anonymously because she fears her relatives could be prosecuted for their crimes. "My uncle was very excited that it was a free-for-all--white against black--that he could participate in," says the woman. "For him, the opportunity to hunt black people was a joy."
"They didn't want any of the 'ghetto niggers' coming over" from the east side of the river, she says, adding that her relatives viewed African-Americans who wandered into Algiers Point as "fair game." One of her cousins, a young man in his 20s, sent an e-mail to her and several other family members describing his adventures with the militia. He had attached a photo in which he posed next to an African-American man who'd been fatally shot. The tone of the e-mail, she says, was "gleeful"--her cousin was happy that "they were shooting niggers."
An Algiers Point homeowner who wasn't involved in the shootings describes another attack. "All I can tell you is what I saw," says the white resident, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals. He witnessed a barrage of gunfire--from a shotgun, an AK-47 and a handgun--directed by militiamen at two African-American men standing on Pelican Street, not too far from Janak's place. The gunfire hit one of them. "I saw blood squirting out of his back," he says. "I'm an EMT. My instinct should've been to rush to him. But I didn't. And if I had, those guys"--the militiamen--"might have opened up on me, too."
From the August 22 edition of NRA News' Cam & Company on The Sportsman Channel:
EDWARDS: Algiers incidentally was one of the neighborhoods in New Orleans that in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina saw armed neighborhood patrols, basically. While police were not around, neighbors were looking out for each other by walking the streets armed with firearms and making sure that there was no looting, no robbing, no burglaries there in their neighborhood in that chaotic aftermath after the storm. Seems like clearly that attitude of being able to protect yourself and the ones you love remains in place in Algiers even though the storm damage has been cleared up.
Due to the paucity of actual instances of firearm self-defense -- which are far less common than gun assaults and murders -- NRA News has run into trouble when attempting to highlight cases of armed self-defense in the past. In one instance, Edwards honored an "armed citizen" who was also facing charges for allegedly raping a juvenile.