No. This is not Hallowe’en night masking on New Year’s Eve.
Several people have spoken of this phenomenon, most notably former Senator Max Cleland of Georgia on an episode of Bill Maher’s Real Time. Smoke and Mirrors pointed this out thusly on October 17:
It’s reported that there is a warehouse of bodies recovered, after being delivered at Charity Hospital in New Orleans with bullets to the back of their heads. The discovery has lead to former Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff Foti – mentioned in these pages in past articles – who is now Attorney General of the State of Louisiana, asking for an independent investigation.
Well, now the curtain is rising on those 21 bodies. And wouldn’t you know that only some backwater newspapers are reporting it via the Associated Press?
Not WaPo, not the San Francisco Chronicle, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times or the New York Times.
From unexplained gunshot wounds to stabbings and fatal blows to the head, these unidentified victims are now the main characters in a real-life version of “CSI.”
With evidence that’s washed away, witnesses who fled the state and overworked police, at least one official says the mysteries may never be solved.
“We don’t know if they are suicide or murder or accident,” says New Orleans coroner Dr. Frank Minyard.
And many of the bodies were so badly decomposed and compromised that there was no blood or organs extant.
Out of the over 1,000 corpses in the St. Gabriel mortuary, if coroners found anything that looked remotely suspicious–a bullet lodged near a bone or a deep wound that looked as if it was made with a knife–they notified the police and the district attorney’s office.
New Orleans police spokesperson Captain Juan Quinton denied that there was any appreciable back log of unexplained deaths and refused to discuss the details of any ongoing investigation. However, the Orleans Parish DA is investigating four murders that occurred after the hurricane: one at the Dome, one at the Convention Center and two that took place on the street.
I cannot believe that there are only four official deaths to investigate, just as there are only four reported rapes recorded in contrast to the dozens of rapes that were said to have occurred throughout New Orleans. I know, however, that what has given some Katrina survivors flashbacks and nightmares–and possibly an adamant refusal to return–have been their witnessing random acts of violence, not just the losses of life by flooding. Violence not only perpetrated by civilians but by the very police, either in uniform or in plain clothes, that were supposed to protect them from harm in the days following the hurricane and during the flooding.
Included in the morgue’s mysterious 21 – but not among the four on the DA’s homicide list – are the police-shooting deaths of two men in September. Police say the two opened fire on contractors traveling across the Danzinger Bridge on their way to make repairs. The family of one of the dead disputes the men shot at anyone, and Jordan’s office is investigating.
In late October, a prominent forensic pathologist, Dr. Cyril Wecht, coroner of Pittsburgh, PA, came to assist Minyard with 30 Katrina-related autopsies, including one involving a shooting death. Wecht too could not rule whether the deaths were accidental or intentional. The coroners could only make sure that each victim had pieces of their leg bones removed for DNA analysis for final identification.
And Louis Cataldie, the state medical examiner, said in another story yesterday that a precise casualty count of hurricane and flooding victims might never be known. So far, there are 1,100 dead statewide, with some 6,000 unaccounted for.