tv Ronnie Greene on Shots on the Bridge CSPAN August 30, 2015 3:45pm-4:46pm EDT
about the systematic denial of benefits to coal miners with black lung disease. that was the center's first pulitzer prize. we were just discussing how many nonprofits and foundations have gotten pulitzer prizes because, obviously, they're not media organizations. so it's really quite an extraordinary thing to see that happen, and it really speaks to the quality of both the reporting and editing and the importance of that story. this is not a surprise, however, for those of you who have followed ronnie's career. for many years he's produced a range of other award-winning stories from documenting horrific working conditions of farmhands in florida to deaths in florida group homes to the too-frequent crashes of cargo planes, and he's also written one previous book, "night fire: big oil, poison air and margie richards' fight to save her town." tonight he's talking about "schatz on the bridge: police violence and cover-up in the wake of katrina."
in it he focuses on events that took place am to the -- almost to the day almost ten years ago in new orleans. it was only days after hurricane katrina had wreaked havoc on the city and its residents, many of whom had lost their possessions, houses, loved ones and hopings. police also were confronted about their own fears. these two realities collided on september 4, 2005, on the danziger bring and evolved into a decade-long narrative that still has yet to be fully resolved. and it's a narrative that has become all too depressingly familiar across our country, from ferguson to staten island to baltimore and beyond, the shootings of unarmed black citizens by police officers whose actions and attitudes seem to represent a wholly different system of blue on black justice. i wish i could say, ronnie, that your book was neither so timely, nor so urgent, but alas, here we
are in 2015 with those shots echoing more loudly than ever. so thank you for continuing to shed light on this really important story, continuing to expose the dark canner truths behind -- darker truths behind it, and we really appreciate your being here. thank you so much, and thanks all of you for coming. please join me in welcoming ronnie greene. [applause] >> welcome, and thank you, everyone, for coming out tonight, i really appreciate it. >> turn your mic up. >> sure. in talking about the book, i'll start sort of at the beginning, for me at least, which was several years after the events on the bridge. i was in my newsroom in washington one afternoon in august of 2011 when i happened to see a wire story, associated press wire story, about the conviction of several officers in new orleans. they had been convicted for shootings of residents on a small bridge in new orleans after katrina and also in the
cover-up. and there was a few things about this story that really literally made me stop in my tracks. i read about one of victims was a 40-year-old man with a mental development of a 6-year-old who had been shot several times in the back and died. i read also that a teenaged 17-year-old boy had also been shot and killed that morning and that police had covered up their actions. and for some reason, my ininstant thought was if i could to start of stop time and figure out how did these residents, how did the police officers get will that day, how were they brought together that morning through nature and fate. how did they get there that morning. that was my first curiosity. and i also felt when i read that first story, my instincts told me this was a book that i really wanted to write. so as i peeled back some of the layers and started looking into those basic questions, how did the residents and the officers get there that day, i learned a few things. there were are, essentially, two families on the bridge this morning. one of them is the madison family. two brothers, lance and ronald
madison. and they were in town because the madison family is a long-established, very well-respected family in new orleans. ten children were born to the parents. the whole family planned to flee new orleans with katrina coming, but ronald, the 40-year-old, he didn't want to leave his family dogs behind. so ronald stayed back, and his older brother, his protector, lance madison -- a one-time nfl football player -- would stay back with ronald. so that's how the madison brothers were in new orleans at that time. the other family is the bartholomew family. there was a group of six on bridge that morning, that sunday morning. and the reason they were in town was susan bartholomew, the head of the family, she gathered everyone in her family in her apartment on the second floor, and there were 10 or 11 people in her apartment but only one van. and susan said if we all can't go together, we're all going to stay. so these were such human reasons why these families were here this day.
and i also wanted to figure out in looking into this, you know, how did these two families meet at the small bridge that few people ever heard of, the danziger bridge, seven-tenths of a mile long? i tried to place what happened to bring them there that morning. i'll tell you a little bit about that. the madison brothers had tried to ride out the storm in lance's apartment, two-story condo. they, of course, flood waters chased them to the roof where lance and ronald were on the roof with the dogs. ronald started crying, lance comforted him. they waved and screamed for a helicopter that never can came. so the brothers went two miles from lance's apartment to another brother's a office. one of theirs was a -- their brothers was a dentist. his office is right at the foot of the danziger bridge. you can literally throw a rock, and you hit it. so they took five hours one day to swim through the torment -- torrents of katrina to get to the brother's dental office
which is where they were living. and this sunday morning, sunday, september 4, 2005, they were trying to get to the family home where they both grew up and ronald still lived. it was two miles away. they couldn't get there. so this morning they were walking back. they were depressed, they were beaten, they were beaten down by the misery of katrina a week later. they were walking back to go back to the dental office. as far as the bartholomew family, where they were and how they got there, they had also been chased from their apartment by the storm. they also broke the top of the house to go to the roof and waved for a helicopter that never came. they settled, ultimately, at a decrepit hotel room also off the danziger bridge. and this morning, the sunday morning, there were a group of six from this family; susan, the mother, her husband, their two oldest children, their nephew, jose, and his good friend, the 17-year-old. they were walking from their
motel room to the winn-dixie to get medical supplies for susan's mom who was very sick, get cleaning supplies. so these were literally two families just trying to survive the hurricane. they were guilty of nothing more than trying to survive the hurricane. i also wanted to learn as much as i could about the officers who ultimately whose gunfire caused such trauma and misery. one of those officers was named robert falcone, and looking into his back story, his fiancee was nine months pregnant, and conceivably he could have gone to his bosses and said my fiancee's giving birth in two days, do you mind if i stay with her. he didn't do that. he decided to report for duty, and before this day falcone had never fired his weapon while on duty in new orleans. and the families and the police officers were both trapped. they both, in many ways, for
hostages to the hurricane. falcone and a partner go to a hotel room, the last room available at the comfort inn suites and looked out the window and saw his car get sub merged. his gun was dunked in water and wouldn't fire. he was, in many ways, a hostage to the katrina storm as were the residents. ultimately, falcone was rescued by officers and went to a command center that was three miles away from the danziger bridge. and it was a crazy time for police. couple of days before this sunday, one of their fellow officers was patting down looters and was shot in the head. police started taking to traveling the city streets with their own high-powered weapons. one of the officers involved in the incident i'm going to talk about, every morning that he went out to patrol the streets, he had his 30 inch ak-47, his personal weapon, in the front seat, wedged in the front seat between the seats as he went out to patrol. there was also a profound lack of leadership by the city. the officers were on their own. as one officer later said, when
supervisor later said there were officers who really needed counseling. they needed counseling to get through this. but instead of counseling, they were given high-powered rifles and sent back into duty. and this is sort of the same setting -- the scene and the setting. this morning as the two families are literally crossing paths without speaking, the police get a call. it's a call, a 108 call, officer under distress. there's no question these officers who raced in to this truck -- which i'll describe in a second -- thought they were going to a gunfight m they were all very aware of what happened to their colleague a couple days later. they expected a war. as they sid, it was -- as they said, it was us versus them. it was a really profoundly challenging time for everyone after katrina. not only did officers use their own personal weaponry, they weren't driving police cruisers. they were driving any truck they could commandeer. this morning they were driving a budget rental truck. there's two officers in front,
there's nine in the back. they're racing, on the same road, responding to what they think is going to be a gunfight. they get to the bridge, and before the truck even stops the driver leans out the window with a handgun. he's steering with one hand and shooting with the other. and the two families on the bridge, the bartholomew and madison families, they are stunned by this. they start to hurdle over a concrete barrier. they start to go for cover. the bartholomew family is at one end of the bridge, the madison brothers a little bit higher up when the shooting started. the shooting didn't stop. the officers didn't ask any questions, they just fired and fired and fired. and by the time they were done, two residents were killed. ronald madison, the 40-year-old, was killed, shot times in the back, and the 17-year-old teenager with the family was killed as well. four other residents were maimed in a really horrific scene. susan bartholomew, the mother, she had her arms shot off.
her 17-year-old daughter lay atop her, and bullets kept coming. i'm going to read a couple of passages from the book. this first passage really is set after the shooting stopped other officers responded to the scene, and this is the perspective of an officer who was not involved in the smooting, but who came shortly after the shooting on the bridge. his name is taj mcgee. mcgee stepped from the bus and witnessed the remnants of a massacre. he saw holmes trying to breathe, j.j. motionless, blood-soaked. nearby he spotted the woman on the ground. she was attempting to crawl. she was riddled with bullets. on the other side of the bridge he made his way near ronald madison, slumped over, the back of his white shirt turned red. he was pretty much on his butt slumped over. madison was dead. instantly, the images the officer took in didn't add up. when he stepped onto the street,
mcgee was careful to check for bullet holes in the truck but found none. wall atop the bridge, sow dozens of shell casings but recognized all as coming from police weapons. it didn't make sense. he began scouring every inch of the bridge, desperate to find evidence that the victims had fired first or carried weapons themselves. he kept scouring the bridge from one end to the other and then began walking down the grassy area under the danziger bridge. nothing. he passed by another officer and shared his findings. good thing you're not working for a lawyer, the cop told him. when he got back into the bus and drove away trying to put the puzzle out of his mind, it wasn't his investigation, it wasn't his role to question the shooters. he returned to other duties. i didn't ask anybody anything, he said. i didn't want to know. an old adage entered his mind,
ask me no questions, and i'll tell you no lies. the time when witnesses started to come to the scene, one was a troubleshooter and he happened to be that morning taking pictures of the hotel for insurance purposes. he had one in his hands, and he had one in his pocket. and when he turned out with the camera in his hands, police officer rushed up to him, took the camera and stomped it on the ground. two or three hours after the gunfire had quelled, robert rickman walked back outside, ronald madison's body remained on the pavement. no officers were around, the lifeless figure left unguarded. he pulled camera two and began taking pictures. he snapped photos of the 40-year-old man lying before him and of the shell casings around the body. no one asked him a question this morning, but he kept the photographings. the photographs and all the
other evidence was important because police that morning instantly launched into a cover-up. before all the victims were wheeled to the emergency room for treatment for victims who were facing life or death injuries, the police on the bridge talked about planting a gun. in the next coming days and weeks and months, the police created a fiction. they charged lance madison, the protector of ronald, they charged lance madison with attempted murder. they planted a gun that one of sergeants retrieved from his garage. and they called it a ham sandwich. it went into evidence. and they also just truly created a fiction out of whole cloth. one day one of the supervisors when he was writing a report to justify the shooting said get me a name. one of his colleagues just blurted out louisiana tissue shah. so on the report, re tissue smith was -- leticia smith was
listed as a witness who swore the madison brothers were arm 3. it was a great fiction, and they went to great lengths to keep this fiction in place. the police story that began to e memory in black and white was more like an air brushed hollywood screenplay than an official recounting of that devastating morning filled with jolts of creativity, invented witness and evidence and fabricated facts. ..
let me -- one second, a little side note. one thing in researching the moments on the bridge, researching the people drawn together that morning, the residents and officers, and researching the history of civil rights i thought i could never stop learning. so much to learn and absorb about katrina. almost so many horrors you couldn't keep track. there were eight family members on the bridge, one group of six and one group of two. i had a good sense of where the seven -- what happened to seven of the victims. ronald was killed. his brother, lance, was arrested, and then efamily, one
had her arm shot off. her daughter lay atop her to protect her' had been shot and needed surgery. holme was left nor dead. the pair met ticks said don't work on him, and jose whispered, don't give up on me, and they saved his life. then there was little bartholomew, and he had met a bystander who looked after him. i lost track of him. i thought, let me figure out what happened to leonard bartholomew. he was not hit that day. he and lance were not hit. but leonard, when the police stormed out of the budget truck and start shooting, he ran down the embankment of the small bridge, and an officer leaped out and shot at his back and missed. here's what i found.
for nearly two weeks susan had no idea where her son, little leadership understand was, and woke up each morning with worry. leonard met a people driving people out of new orleans and buses. the woman, karla, heard his story and took him to her home in baton rouge for a week and a half. in texas, his uncle jerome saw a notice jalen and came to get him. jerome drive leonard bartholomew iv directly to the hospital. his mom ms. a wheelchair, right arm shot off. his sister was in the hospital, unable to walk. another vic unable to. talk. the tennager was engulfed be guilt. why wasn't he shot, too looking toured cousin jose he started crying. i'm sorry, should have been shot. too. it isn't right i got off.
i'm just walking around and i'm fine. i don't have to worry about injuries. just isn't right. jose lifted an arm and gave a thumb's up. you didn't do anything wrong, he was saying, none of us deserved this. for me, focused on that moment, very late in my research, but showed me there were so many horrors and so much trauma it was almost hard to keep track. that moment stay with me, this 14-year-old boy saying i should have been shot, too. a profound moment. none of us deserve this is what jose was telling him. what is interesting about this case is despite the horrors i described it took the residents, families having to push for justice. a year after the shooting the families filed lawsuits that allowed a whole different narrative, and initially -- sometime after that the local d.a. filed charges against some of the police officers involved. the officers were paraded as heroes.
and in the case in the system so much so the madison family in particular, led by the brother who is a dentist, didn't trust the local d.a. to right the wrong. while there was a case pending, the madison family and others pressed for the federal department of justice to come in. they didn't trust the local agency to do the right. and they were right. a couple of years after the case, charges were filed. a judge dismissed the charges. then the attend of justice came, in led by the civil rights division, a very aggressive federal prosecutor who spent her career work only civil rights agent, walked with a rookie fbi agent who was a mechanical engineer but win into the fbi, and they teamed up with prosecutors and got to new orleans and they took a deeper review of the events on the bridge. they knocked on doors that had never been knocked on before. all of the witnesses that may have seen something were never
questioned by in the nopd. they were now questioned. the u government, the doj shut down the danziger bridge to search for evidence. it sent a message they were looking, they started confronting supervisors with evidence that, you guys were crafting a fiction. and after many, many years, a couple of key supervisors pleaded guilty. they crossed the blue line, and i want to read a short passage. i told you that when the bus was -- when the budget truck was racing to the bridge, the guy whoa was driving, with an ak-47, he lean out the one dough and fired warning shots. his bullets didn't hit anyone but he fired warning shots and scattered the families. his name is michael hunter. hunter had been wrestling with demons from to the morning in september 2005. after officers were first charged in state court, he was
assigned desk duty dollar paperwork. another officer worked alongside him. each day officers withcould by the office, shaking to their hand and ripping into the d.a. for prosecuting police for doing their job. one day hunter had enough. his fellow officers celebrated the police actions that morning, hunter rose from this difficult and stormed to the bathroom. what's wrong, the other man asked. standinged in men's room, hunter turn to the officer. there's nothing cool about being indicted. we're not heroes. michael hunter never wanted to climb the police ladder to stardom. he wanted to be a cop. the officer sent his four children out of town and reported to work during katrina himself radio was promptly ruined by salt water. his cell cell phone stuck in his pocket was ruined, too. each day he headed out for duty heavily armed. when the call came, he raised to the driver's seat. he wasn't an opportunistic guy
said his lawyer, he was a quiet guy do the police work kind of guy. now hunter faced the most wrenching choice of his life. he had gone along with the coverup. admitted he at any time have the courage to tell the truth. now we fbi agents knocking on his door and word spreading supervisors had been cooperating everything changed. the truth had gotten out. it was just a matter of time. it was just a matter of time. ultimately the d.o.j. case led to a successful prosecution, and led to that very story i first rather in august of 2011. that is the only -- can't call ill joyce yous -- the only moments where the victim families had some sense of relief. the officers were conviction almost every count, and the families were greeted by supporters who hugged them and tears flowed down from j. j.'s
mom and lance madison, who testified about what happened that morning, he read a note from. -- from fedex piece of paper. he worked at fedex, and talked about the horrors hi went through and the relief he finally felt. it wasn't relief. i was a temporary relief because the judge overseeing the case vacated the jury verdict and directed for a new trial on issues that have nothing to do with the event september 4, 2005, and nothing to do with that. and here we are, ten years later, ten years, and for the victims, the victim families, who lost a son and a brother, who lost an arm, who suffered life disfiguring injuries, and who are completely innocent, completely unarmed, justice remains unresolved. as i was looking into the book in 2011, so many case office note started to develop across the country. over 20142015.
i stopped in my tracks when i saw the pictures of walter scott, in south carolina. the freddie gray case in baltimore, eric garner case in staten island. all those cases were profound, tragedies, so many of them start with the motion innocuous of moment. some pulled over for not having tags on their car and ultimately someone dies. all painful cases but in retracing and thinking about the danziger case i can't think of another case that was as severe a case of a civil rights abuse. when you look at the trauma and the bloodshed atop the small bridge and then look at the extent of the coverup put in place. very significant case study and has some lessons that i'm glad to talk about during the q & a. i will read one last short passage and then happy to take any questions. those events played out i kept
thinking back to two families hundred on the danziger bridge on september 4, 2005, following a police distress call that had anything to do with the eight residents. each of them black and unarmed. ten years later justice remains an open question. the development both sobering and telling. i kept returning in my mind to an insight mark, the form are new orleans mayor and current president of the national urban league, shared as i interviewed him about the danziger case in order to convict a police officer you don't have to convict him beyond a reasonable doubt, he said you have to convict him beyond all doubt. i recall the words of jedwin, the lawyer for the bar that mew family. -- bartholomew family. in louisiana, the families of the victims continue to pray. johnson, j.j.'s mom wakes up each morning without her son, the 17-year-old killed on the
bridge. it's never going to go away. i loved him to doubt, wonder what he would be. i wonder what if. my whole life, she said, is spent wondering. thank you. [applause] >> if you have a question, make your way to the mic. >> good evening, thank you for your presentation. i had occasion to confront a police officer when i was cab driver, and i had called in a break-in where i was asked to pick somebody up and they said, wait for the police to arrive. capture kind of easy to see, yellow, black, lights all over them. i was leaning into the cab, and he showed up and immediately jump elfed out with a shotgun and leveled it at me.
and i just looked at him like he was crazy and he finally agreed with me, i guess, and he put it down. but there's some mentality there that i'm very concerned about, and it seems to keep popping up. i wonder if you looked into that at all. >> one thing i want to make clear about this is what the officers did on that bridge that morning was completely wrong in every possible way. they shot first, didn't ask questions. covered it up, and at the end of the coverup a real good families -- but i tried to put the shooting in context of what the department was going through. their fellow officer had been shot in the head. there was a complete leadership vacuum atop the new orleans police. i talked to a form officer who went back to search for bodies ten days after, and he said ten days in no one was in charge. the fact the officers could go around carrying their own ak-47s speaks the craziness of the times.
i tried to understand that. there's no doubt there was real palpable feel in that -- that's the spot they were going into, really a chaotic, terrible situation but these were good family and they shot first-didn't ask questions and covered it up. so i -- i thought it was important to put in context of the times. >> i'm curious about why the police arrived guns blazing at this situation. who called them? what did that person or person think was happening. why did the police get the situation so wrong and react in such a totally unnecessarily violent way? >> good question. so, this morning when there's -- so many threads to the story it could be five books. this morning, other officers were on the i-10, which runs pair throw the danziger bridge. they were towing boats in hopes of rescuing people.
that's come down the i-10 there's a man dressed in a sheriff's office outfit who says they're shooting at me! and the -- when lead officer who was in this car, her name is jennifer due pray, she herd him and saw a couple of guys with guns. so she called in -- the situation was so chaotic. they were connecting through hand-held radio and people talk in each other. she called in 108, which means officer under distress. she never said, officer down, officer shot, but at that banquet hall, they all assumed that. they all assumed, think there, was an officer down. a couple days earlier one of their brethren, kevin thomas, was shot in the head. so they railed to at the bridge. eirony there were people in the area earlier that day with guns but the guy who flagged down the officer was a convict felon who was dressed like a sheriff's deputy. >> thank you very much. >> you're welcome.
>> in listening to the story, i think about the coverup that took place, and that the story that they weaved to cover up what they had done was based on the idea that they were shot at first, they were under attack or something of that nature. i think in considering people -- it's almost cliche, police officers have a dangerous job. everybody accepts that is true. but it seems to me that the police don't accept it as true because if you know you're doing a dangerous job, you accept the danger in doing it. i if you're a bike messenger you have a dangerous job, weaving through traffic, but you can't pull out a gun as soon as someone creeps into the intersection and you feel threatened. either get hit or get out of the way. you accept that as part of your
job in this instance, the instances such as these, police officers are able to get away with these murders because they felt threatened. they were anxious. they were nervous. they thought someone had a gun. they thought it looked like a gun so they can just shoot first and ask questions later, and even in this instance, if someone did have a gun on that bridge, if there was something going on, they were -- it would have been justified for them to go on this maniacal shooting, blood lust, shoot out of a car. shooting people's arms off, shooting anymore back, when they're scattering you continue to shoot, shoot, shoot, and reload and shoot some more. so that's my issue. and i'd like you to kind of respond to this idea of giving them a pass just because there is danger or might be danger. >> i don't anyone should give at the officers a pass but you hit on an important thing. when the officers were writing their coverup, creating their
fiction, they didn't have any sense at all they were looking over their shoulder, that the mayor or the bosses at the employing department were going -- police department were going to make sure they had everything right. they were operating in many ways with impunity and that showed me the importance at a very local level that the mayor, the police chief, play. when mark more yell was mayor be appointed -- he was a disciplinarian and the fbi was imbedded in the office. during katrina the mayor was ray nagin, who never held office before there there was no sense the police chief was telling them to do was wrong. that is the significance of having strong leadership that says to these officers you can't get away when writing these fictions when are there human beings at the other end of this. >> i think this is a very important issue, and remains
extremely important. before i came to the united states i -- i'm from the caribbean. 0 studied in netherlands and i was confronted with this when i was a student at usc, where somehow it became known i was a lawyer, and people would bring me in from watt to talk to them about police violence, and i honestly -- i'm not -- but the stories i hear were flabber gasting and shocking. kids walking down, thrown against the wall, called names, et cetera, et cetera. so, what i would like to maybe do a little bit more here is to place the whole story in a larger context you. begin in 2005. obviously this outcome -- what we have here is the jim crow racism run rampant and i cannot say if these policemen had problems but you have a way of policing in the south, and i've
been to new orleans, right? based on a long, long history, and also a basically what happened in new orleans was a failed state. right? new orleans became a failed state. a failed locality. so, when you have all of this complexity of a history of basically extremely racist policing, going back to slavery and the setting up of the police departments and the role the police departments play to a large extent, right? protecting majority against minority people. then you create a violent situation and breakdown of rules can completely untenable. maybe talk about that a little bit on these different levels. >> i say i couldn't dish stopped learning there, was so much to learn about. i started looking into the new orleans police, who had been really troubling cases going back decades. officers violating civil rights
of results, and what was striking is even after the events 0 to bridge and katrina, the department of justice did a report that looked at incidents after this and there was a striking disparity in the treatment of minority residents in new orleans by the police department. so it's a profound issue that is still being addressed and dealt with today. i tried to put that in larger context in the book. >> hi, ron. >> hi. >> great reading. >> thank you. >> you made reference to recent events in the last year or so but i haven't seen this event on the den bridge? has anybody else remembered this. >> as other stories played out in my best guess is for one, there were so many horrors after katrina, and a lot of the horrors were proven to be untrue. the falsehood about that deft of what was happening to superdome.
there was so much misery. i lived through hurricanes in florida, lived through andrew but not katrina. this case initially was just one of so many horrors, and the other thing is the truth about this case rolled out very slowly. it took a year before the families filed a lawsuit and said, there's a different story here. but then there was a question, well, whose is telling the truth? the and then it was two years later for the d.j. to bring a case. because it was piecemeal, thick -- i think this is one of the more significant cases of civil rights abuse in the last -- in our lifetimes to be honest with you but it didn't play out because of those factors. other questions? >> hi, ronnie, thank you for your reading and for bringing this issue to our attention once again. i have a very simple question. i'm interested in the number of officers you were able to
interview, and also how you gained their trust on such a difficult issue. >> challenging things in this case, particularly after the judge overturned the verdict vacated the trial. i put in request ares for all the officers to a person their lawyers and families they would not talk about the case because the case may come back. i talked to other officers, talked to a former officer who spent 17 years on the force now is a lawyer for police, to get a sense of the time of katrina. also went to the sentencing of the officers where multitudes of police officers stood up and spoke. normally -- didn't excuse the death of the bridge but so many officers said at this chaotic time that could have ben me. that was a theme that played out. i read the transcript of the trial, pulled tons of records and tried very hard to get at their perspective and talked to their lawyers at length as well.
>> i still don't have a -- have a hard time understanding the timeline, what -- katrina hits. and then sometime later the shots on the bridge. could ju just explain when does this occur relative to that? >> yes, six days later. the first sunday after katrina, sunday, september 4-inch. five or six days after landfall in new orleans. a beautiful morning, that morning, and so everyone went out. and then the chronology, ten years later, still active. if you want me to -- >> if katrina is a week, why are buildings still being flooded? you said people were -- wasn't the decision to go, no go, week earlier. >> these families had stayed in new orleans, yes, and were just trying to survive, and some of them couldn't get back to their homes. >> thank you.
>> you're welcome. >> hi, ronnie. >> hi, katherine. >> i think the u.s. attorney was at -- seemed to be a good guy from everything i read and know about him. could you talk about vacating the verdict? wasn't it his office? >> what happened, just to give a real quick overview, is that there had been a couple of prosecutors, one who was not involved in this case, who happened to -- local stories about police wrongdoing, a couple of prosecutors would weigh in with anonymous comments, and a lawyer in an unrelated case found out one of them was a prosecutor in the u.s. attorney's office and was weighing in on so many cases and ripping the police left and right. but the defense for the officers argued, their main argument was, they felt that these anonymous online comments were part of a larger department of justice conspiracy to essentially convict the officers before the wasn't to trial and thought it prejudiced their clients. seemed like a real long shot.
those anonymous comments, not clear if a juror saw. the and there's no sense iit had anything to do with justice but the judge in the case vacated the ruling largely because of the anonymous comments. >> have they rescheduled the trial? no that's still being played out. >> thank you. i'm wondering if -- made any efforts to put katrina in context with a sort of long history of flooding in new orleans and effort biz white authorities to -- efforts by white authorized to use the states of emergency in order to perpetuate extra legal violence against blacks, going back to the huge floodings in the 19th 19th century and early 20th 20th century. >> there's been some ebbs leapt reporting by the time picayune. i looked at the flooding to at the extent it played out and the impact it had on the psyche of
everyone, residents and officers. beyond that it wasn't something i look at beyond those issues front and center. >> i'm going to -- is there any evidence of anything being done to improve the new orleans police department as a result of all of this? >> that's a really good question. so, years after katrina, the doj, department of justice, came out with a detailed report that lookedded a police practices and protocol in new orleans and found systemic breakdowns and found that targets of police fire and police altercations were disproportionately black residents. that led to training that was supposed to right the ship. after the city signed it, the city tried to back out for other reasons. a judge ultimately confirmed the
consent agreement but it's a work in progress. after the police chief, who was in for katrina, he resigned shortly after that. they went through several police chiefs, they call them superintendents. there was a reform minded superintendent who was in charge. and i thought this is great. when i was researching the book -- on his web site he talked about these cases are a black eye for the department, we have a 65-point plan to improve. i tried very hard to interview him, to talk about these things, and coincidentally, as i was going into my trips in new orleans, he quit, resigned the force, unrelated to my quits but -- my inquiries but he resigned so there's a new chief. who knows. i know that there's not really been a steadying of the ship when there should be in new orleans police department. >> what really funny, she took two-thirds of my question. it points to a larger question that this is certainly not the first consent creak.
such as seattle or ferguson, there is a larger failing as a result of how many police departments are under review or consent decrees as a result of this kind of activity? >> that does seem to be a trend in several cities. i think cleveland may be going through one as well. that goes back to my point earlier itch earlier. i think the importance of the local leadership, setting the right tone north saying to police officers we don't like you. respecting the officers but let neglect know officers if they veer off course they will pay the price. that wasn't the case with katrina at all with tragic consequences. strong leadership can make a huge difference so you wouldn't need consent decrees. >> one, run other question, getting back to this gentleman's point about the police being
held accountable and operating with impunity. seems a really well attend police force that didn't have a history of systemic injustice towards a huge part of their local population, should have been able to respond even through the chaotic circumstances without the kind of behavior that was exhibited in this incident. >> that's one of the points mark, the former mayor, said to me. he said, when a department -- not every officer is corrupt but when a department has corrupt practices those instincts kick in. in this coverup just kicked in. they were talking about planting a gun before the bodies were taken to the hospital. that's how quickly this came about. so, if you have an office -- a department where you know that's not going to be accepted, maybe it won't kick in so quickly. >> the initial acts of violence. there was a reflexive kicking in of not asking questions.
>> as i mentioned, the driver of the car fired warning shots. nine officers in the cargo area in back who could see behind and not in front. so they hear the gunshots and its just went crazy from there with real consequences for the residents. >> anymore questions? >> in your resame did few -- the system of corruption, did you find other cases you tight might have been covered lly -- you thought might have been covered up? >> well, there were other indications, including one really striking case, right about this time, involve manage named henry glover, who was shot in the back and then burned, set afire, after katrina. so there were so many cases to keep track of. >> my question is similar.
the bridges were blocked after the storm was over, residents who were trying to leave the city couldn't even leave the city because there were police and militia guards on other bridges as well, and i was wondering if there were any other shootings or -- maybe not to that extreme but anything like that. >> clearly there were other shootings, one involved a police officer as the victim, and that really intensified the bond between the officers, where this feeling -- i talked to a police officer a couple weeksing what said in normal times police officers can very quickly turn into an us versus them because your job can be draining and challenging and dealing with difficult situations all the time. if you put the context of katrina in that, it's quantified many times beyond that. i was truly us versus them, particularly after one of their fellow officers had been shot. that was a culture that can lead to these abuses.
>> even in those instances, shouldn't -- if the policies and the mindset of the police where as it should be, you would become more -- just like when you see people get shot down and then communities might start to get -- bubble up and you have people come out and say, we got to calm down, this is a time for peace. in this instance, nobody was come ought and saying, hey, all right, tensions are high, one of our officers got shot, we don't need y'all going all crazy because you're afraid. you got to calm down. remember your training and just stick to what you're supposed to do and try to calm the situation down. instead of going out there and making it worse, shooting people's arms off. >> that's exactly what they needed to hear, and they didn't hear enough after katrina no question. and again, there's no question, there's no reason for these officers to fire a single shot at these two families. they were unarmed.
just trying to survive. that speaks to the culture. goes back decades. and also the time. one thing about the officers, while several officers later crossed the blue line and agreed to cooperate, they didn't do that voluntarily. and that's one of the things the families said at their sentencing. just one of he officers on he bridge, supervisor, stood up and said this was a shoot gone horribly wrong weapon thought these were the people we were going after but they warrant. grant mad madison, who lost his brother, would not have spent 25 days behind bars-standing with his back to the wall, afraid someone would kill him. if one officer stood up and said the truth that would have made a profound difference. >> i have a question base owed an fictional account which is tremaine, the david simon piece, and the series that deals with police and these cases. in fact this case. and in fact i think the henry
glover case. does that seem to you to ring true, the way they describe it there? >> yes. i'm a fan of david simon's work, going back to "the wire. "he focused on the glover case and eludessed to the danziger case a few time. he captured the culture of new orleans, the great city it is and the craziness and also whats occurs in that city. >> i think we have sadly come to the end of a wonderful event. thank you so much for coming. books are available up front. ronnie will be happy to sign. i appreciate it. [applause] >> be kind enough to fold up your chairs. [inaudible conversations]
>> most folks remember hit as great foreign policy president, and he was. but beyond that, george herbert walker bush passed more domestic legislation and more significant domestic legislation than any president since lyndon johnson or franklin roosevelt. it's amazing that a lot of people almost don't realize the breadth and depth of his domestic achievements and that's one of the reasons i felt it would be good to put all of that
in one place, "the quiet man. "if there are three or four thing i'd like you to take away after reading the book, one would we the fact that he came into office after ronald reagan had rebuilt america's strength. the phrase was "peace through strength" and ronald reagan made the exceptional investment to rebuild our military capacity. and although a lot of folks really are in a bit of denial on it, the fact is that the soviet union took one look at the economic capacity of the united states, to build up its military capacity, and gore chef come -- gorbachev in other words there was absolutely no way they could compete, and what he wanted to do was to begin to interact with the u.s. and our western allies.
reagan built it up, and bush understood the opportunity that the world had after nearly a half century post world war with two super powers with tremendous nuclear capability. bush understood the opportunity was there. and in his own style, began to build the western coalition that was necessary to take advantage of it, and a relationship of trust and cooperation that was necessary between the united states and the soviet union. the european allies were not as eager as george bush to move quickly. but bush, with a series of meetings, first with mitt round and then with alcohol and
then -- khol and attacher, was able to announce a reduction of u.s. troops and armor in europe and invite by that act an equivalent reduction or even a greater reduction by the soviet union with anywhere occupation forces in eastern europe. and it worked. gorbachev welcomed the opportunity to reduce his fiscal obligations to occupation, and that began the loosening that allowed elections to take place in poland and czechoslovakia and the throwing of eastern europe. wait george bush's amazing personal talent with both our o allies allies allies and our foes that created the trust that is necessary for big powers, great powers, significant powers, to make the kind of policy commitments that
produce good results. in a matter of two and a half years, george bush was able to lead a coalition interaction, a peaceful coalition interaction, that produced the dissolution of the number two super power in the world without a single shot being fired. i personally think that his greatest mistake was making it look so easy. and i hope as you read the book, you will understand exactly what i mean when i say that.
favorite books and favorite movies, and she wrote nothing else, and it was a weird sort of life and career in the sense of such a wonderful novel wasn't followed up by anything, and then recent live this manuscript was found, which she actually wrote before "to kill a mockingbird," involving the same characters. so that coming out in mid-july, and since i love "to kill a mockingbird" i'm sure it won't live up to that but i'm really looking forward to it. then right now i'm re-reading a walker percy novel called "the november have igoer," set in new orleans where i grew up so it's nostalgic for me because it's set in the new orleans i grew up in, and i love walker percy, one of my favorite novelists. he lived in the greater new orleans area, wrote several novels, all of which i really liked. probably my favorite is "the last gentleman."
>> booktv wants to know what your reading this summer. tweet us your answer or post it on our facebook page. up next, to mark the anniversary of hurricane katrina, former "new york times" reporter gary rivlin talks about theerts to rebuild new orleans in the ten years since the storm. >> thank you for joining using this evening. it's an honor for maple street bookshop to have gary rivlin with us to discuss his book "katrina: after the flood." for all of us here who lived through katrina and the aftermath, it's important that we think about what really happened in the days and years following hurricane katrina. i think we all have our views of it but it's great to have someone like gary, who really researched and looked into what went on after the storm.
so, without further adieu, gary rivlin, thank you for being here. [applause] >> thank you. i want to start by thinking maple street books for having me, for c-span for coming, and for all of you. it's been three and a half years on a -- you spend three and a half years on a book and it's gratifying to be able to stand up before you all and talk about it. so, thank you. in a way, i've been working on this book for ten years. i was in the san francisco office of "the new york times." i was on staff there, covering google going public, facebook, the firing of carly fiorina, and my phone rings a few days after we're all seeing the images -- the regs of the country are seeing the images of flooded new orleans. it's my ed doctor saying, do you mind going toyons? i was on a -- going to new
orleans? i was on a plane in a day or two. that was suffering but the thing of the journalist wanting to be part of the story. from the moment i got here -- make i wasn't the typical journalist. most of the media in those first days, weeks and months, after katrina, were focused on those first days. how and why did the levees fail? how did the most powerful country on earth fail so miserably to rescue the tens of thousands of people who were trapped here for five days, six days, seven days. there was talk of euthanized patients in a hospital, and there was just a grisly task of counting the dead. all of that is really important, the central journalism but my fascination for whatever reason was, what are you going to do
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