- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 6, 2005

While law-enforcement authorities are regaining control of New Orleans from looting and anarchy in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, they say they cannot distinguish looters from law-abiding citizens.

“We’re not letting people back into New Orleans,” said Assistant Superintendent W.J. Riley, the second-highest-ranking officer at the New Orleans Police Department. “We don’t know who are the good-quality citizens and who are the criminal element.

“There are no jobs. There are no homes to go to, no hotels to go to. There is absolutely nothing here,” Superintendent Riley said.

Looting and violence damaged much of the city, and authorities know little about most of the people involved in a series of gunbattles.

New Orleans police killed six armed men who opened fire on a team of U.S. Army contractors on their way to help plug a levee breach; criminal gangs took control of large sections of the city, firing randomly from stolen cars at rescue workers and citizens; and the entire gun collection at a Wal-Mart was taken by looters who stripped the store.

New Orleans Police Superintendent Eddie Compass angrily defended his department and his officers at a press conference, saying they were heroes and not cowards. He said no police force “in the history of the world was asked to do what we were asked.”

The superintendent blamed what he called “nefarious individuals” for the looting and violence, adding that the officers who did not report to work or left the job did so because of concern about their families or the pressure of the job.

“You have some of the most heroic people in history; you had a few cowards who walked away and you interview them,” he shouted at reporters.

Superintendent Compass, a 26-year veteran of the department named to head the agency in May 2002, yesterday told reporters that “we continue to get better day by day.”

More than 120 prisoners filled a downtown jail set up at the city’s train and bus terminal.

Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, commander of Joint Task Force Katrina, declared during a weekend press conference that New Orleans was “secure” and that a force of nearly 7,500 U.S. troops in Louisiana and Mississippi — with more on the way — intended to keep it that way by working with National Guard units and state and local police.

The evacuation of the New Orleans Superdome last week was suspended after a gunman fired at a U.S. military helicopter trying to take sick and injured people to safety.

A New Orleans man, Wendall Bailey, was arrested yesterday by a four-member team of Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agents and charged in that attack with being a felon in possession of firearms and attempting to willfully damage or destroy an aircraft.

ATF spokesman Andrew L. Lluberes said the arrest grew out of a tip by residents in the Algiers section, who had complained of nightly shootings and observed gunfire from an apartment window.

Mr. Lluberes said that as the team went to the location, they saw two persons leave the building and overheard them talk about shooting at the helicopter. When approached, he said, the two ran back into the building, but Mr. Bailey and another man surrendered shortly after the building was surrounded.

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