Vive Le Canada

New Orleans on a hair-trigger
Date: Tuesday, September 06 2005
Topic: International News


By Tim Harper
WASHINGTON BUREAU

09/02/05 "Toronto Star" -- -- NEW ORLEANS - I wheeled the car around and headed back to the scene of the shooting, looking for Toronto Star photographer Lucas Oleniuk, when the officer turned, spotted me and pointed the shotgun right at the windshield.

"Stop the car right now. Back up, or I'll shoot," he screamed.

A couple of others cocked their weapons and trained their guns on the car, purpose in their eyes.

Instinctively, I raised my hands above the wheel and gunned the Pontiac in reverse over fallen tree limbs and debris in the street.

This was our indoctrination into a Big Easy that'll never make a picture postcard.



Minutes earlier, as Oleniuk and I first saw downtown New Orleans looming after a long odyssey to get into the locked-down city, he shouted at me to stop when he spotted armed officers crouched behind a cruiser, training their guns on an apartment block.

His welcome to the besieged city came the second he left the vehicle when three shots rang out a quick "pop-pop-pop." Oleniuk stumbled behind a lamppost for protection and began shooting photos.

In seconds, as many as 40 officers sped to the scene, most in marked cars but one in a Kinko's van some of whom set up behind Oleniuk, their guns aimed over his left shoulder.

Others, guns drawn, shouted at me to get out of the way.

Realizing he was in the line of fire, Oleniuk raced for cover behind a cruiser and worked alongside a group of police as they fired into the building.

After 15 minutes, the last of more than 350 images shot by Oleniuk depicted officers delivering a fierce beating to the two suspects, an assault so fearsome one of the suspects defecated.

Realizing their frontier justice had been captured for posterity, the police turned on the photographer, one ripping a camera from his neck with such force it broke its shoulder strap.

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