Police shot to death a knife wielding man in New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS, United States – Police in New Orleans shot dead a knife wielding man after a showdown caught on amateur videotape, sparking new controversy over law enforcement in the hurricane-hit city.

Images of the 38-year-old being pursued by a dozen police officers with guns drawn flashed across television news channels, days after two officers were sacked for beating up a man in a previous altercation also caught on camera. In Monday’s incident, which the local Times-Picayune newspaper said started with a disagreement in a pharmacy, police shot the African-American man in a hail of gunfire after he ignored orders to drop the knife. At least eleven shots were fired, the paper said, quoting witnesses as saying the man was a familiar figure in the Garden District neighborhood, was believed to have mental problems but was not known to be violent.

The New Orleans Police Department denied officers used excessive force and said they acted in self defence after the man lunged at a policeman.

“He has to back out of the way to keep from being stabbed in his chest, I don’t think it’s too much force,” said police spokesman David Adams.

The department fired two officers last Wednesday for beating up a 64-year-old man, in an incident that sparked outrage after it was caught on videotape and widely broadcast. Another officer accused of assaulting the reporter who filmed the beating was suspended for 120 days, the department said. The beating of a black man by white officers led to accusations of racism and federal officials launched a civil rights probe. The October 8 incident further sullied the reputation of a police force struggling to rebuild after scores of officers abandoned their posts in chaos following Hurricane Katrina which ravaged New Orleans on August 29. A probe was also launched to determine why officers took luxury cars, including two vintage automobiles, from a Cadillac dealership in New Orleans in the lawless aftermath of the storm.