The New Orleans police shooting on Monday of a knife-wielding man troubles me for two reasons. The first is that I always wonder about what options are available to officers when there are several of them armed with guns facing a single person who is armed with something other than a gun. I have never been in that situation so I can't imagine the stress and pressure of making split-second decisions that may save the lives of your fellow officers. But I do think that shooting to wound as opposed to shooting to kill is warranted in some cases. Was it warranted in this case? Possibly.
The second thing I have been pondering is that the man they shot was "mentally unbalanced" according to witnesses who knew him from the neighborhood. My brother and sister-in-law live in this New Orleans neighborhood so I am very familiar with the area. It's mixed racially and socio-economically. It's a neighborhood with a lot of rundown housing but people are making an effort to revitalize. It's an area where, under the best of circumstances, many residents would not be able to afford adequate medical or mental health care. And during these tumultuous times, I wonder if the man who died was separated from his usual caretaker who made sure he took his meds and scheduled his medical appointments. I think about the possibility that his regular doctor(s) may not even be in the city these days.
I think about this because Juannie has had recent incidents where he works, which is in quite a different kind of neighborhood in the suburbs, with two women who were obviously suffering from mental health issues. One was engaging employees in conversations about her sexual relationship with Jesus (you read that correctly) as she shopped until Juannie intervened telling her that she was distressing the workers with the detailed nature of her descriptions. He said she seemed very disoriented and didn't remember what she'd just spoken about with one of the employees. After he spoke with her, she did stop approaching employees, finished her shopping and left the store. Another woman started violently beating herself on the head with her fist because she was upset that the store was operating on a limited basis. John's boss tried to console the woman. His boss got nervous about getting close to the customer when the lady started flailing her fists around. The police officer on their detail was called in to help calm her down.
The incidents at John's store happened before the shooting but they made me consider the thousands of people who are not receiving regular mental health care in the New Orleans area because of the shortage of hospitals, doctors, nurses, social workers and caretakers - paid or otherwise. Could his death have been avoided if this poor guy had been getting his medication or seeing his social worker regularly?
Seventeen Red Cross sub-contractors have been accused of filing false claims to receive Katrina aid. The Red Cross has taken a beating in these parts because of the slow and inconsistent response following Katrina and Rita. I've personally heard about large family groups trading off for 12-14 hours dialing the phone incessantly and then taking turns staying on hold to keep their place in the phone queue to register for assistance.
I know that my parents waited almost two months before they received an aid check from the Red Cross. By that point, they were back in their house and things were reasonably settled again. They really needed the help in the days immediately following the first storm but there were obviously not enough Red Cross resources to meet the needs of all those affected.
I am not surprised by this scam and scandal. And I know that new procedures will be implemented by the Red Cross to weed out fraudulent claims after future disasters. I do worry about how much harder it will be for people, many who may be displaced with no ID or proof of residency, to get aid quickly. How many people will not get the help they truly need?