Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

New Orleans PD

Officer Down

New Orleans PD Badge
New Orleans PD Badge

On the west bank of the Mississippi River, the part of New Orleans known as Algiers escaped much of the flooding that followed in the wake of Katrina, but not the surge of lawlessness and bloodshed.

Lt. Joe Meisch and three other officers from the Police Department's 4th District jumped 16 looters at a Wal-Mart.  They ran out of handcuffs and had to use duct tape commandeered from the store to secure the prisoners.

Just down the street, Officer Kevin Thomas and his partner encountered four armed looters at a gas station.  In the ensuing gunfight, one of the looters shot Officer Thomas in the head.  His partner's return fire wounded one of the gunmen.  Thomas survived and all four suspects were arrested.  Fellow officers recovered four guns: three handguns and a pistol-grip shotgun.

The officers assigned to the 4th District survived for more than a week on food and water they scrounged from Wal-Mart.   They set up a makeshift kitchen under a carport at the district station and a first aid center inside a tiny office.  They worked 24 hours a day for the first two weeks.

Rigged NOPD gas pump
Rigged NOPD gas pump

To put gas in their police cars, the officers jury-rigged an electric pump to an underground fuel tank at a neighborhood gas station.  They powered the pump with the battery from a wrecked patrol car.

"The first week was the worst," Meisch says.  "This place was hell on earth.  I was looking at a piece of (Officer) Kevin Thomas's brain on the concrete, shot over potato chips and beer."

During that first week after the storm, the 4th District officers took gunfire every night, says Meisch, a former U.S. Marine sergeant.  "We'd return fire then send a patrol out to see if we hit anything, like it was Vietnam."


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