Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

New Orleans PD

Fort Apache

Capt. Robert Norton and the 100 officers with him spent three days trapped at the dental school.  Outside, the water was neck deep.  Inside, there was no electricity, nothing to eat, and nothing to drink.  The officers had to live off of what they'd brought with them.  The degree to which individual officers had prepared for the storm varied greatly. 

"Some of the people came with a week's worth of supplies," Norton says.  "Some came with a two-liter Coke and a bag of chips."

Sometime Thursday, a flotilla of boats showed up at the dental school, mostly from the state's Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and started ferrying the officers to higher ground. 

When Norton finally reached the temporary command center that the Police Department had set up at Harrah's Casino, he took charge of deploying the hundreds of law enforcement officers from around the country who had come to New Orleans to help.  Some of them, Norton assigned to boat crews and to search and rescue teams.  Others, especially those with tactical training and who had come with night vision equipment, he dispatched to the city's beleaguered police districts.

"You had looting going on, you had officers being shot at, you had some districts that were completely under siege," Norton says.

One of those district stations under siege was the 1st District on North Rampart Street.  Wedged between the central business district and the French Quarter, officers at the station quickly dubbed it "Fort Apache." 

They hung a hand-printed sign over the front door with the new moniker. 

The name fit.

Monday night, just hours after the storm passed, gunfire erupted around the station.  Helicopters flying over the district were shot at.

"It was just like Somalia," Sgt. Danny Scanlan says.  "We were taking gunfire every night."

Most of the shots came from the Iberville housing project, a three-story, red brick labyrinth of government-funded apartment buildings that sat just a few blocks away.  Three nights after the storm, and after three nights of steady gunfire, Scanlan got tired of ducking bullets.  He decided to do something about it, so he climbed to the top of the five-story health clinic next door to the station.  He brought an M-4, .223-caliber rifle with him.  It was pitch dark.  The only light came from the moon and from burning buildings.  Near midnight, gunshots rang out. 

"It was three different guns," Scanlan says.  "I heard the first one go off and I grabbed my rifle.  The second one went offyou could hear the bullets coming over the stationand I started looking in the area they came from.  The third time somebody fired, I caught their muzzle flash and I opened up on them.  I shot maybe ten rounds."

Scanlan's marksmanship paid off.  The station didn't take any more gunfire from the housing project.


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