Police fatally shot the mentally ill occupant of a federally supplied trailer early Wednesday, ending a nearly 10-hour standoff in one of the neighborhoods hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina.
Federal Emergency Management Agency workers alerted police Tuesday afternoon after a man with a handgun ordered them to leave the trailer in an overgrown, weedy lot in the affluent Lakeview neighborhood after an inspection, authorities said.
The man, who police have not identified, locked himself inside a partly gutted two-story brick house next to the trailer. Police got in downstairs, but the man shot at them twice, causing no injuries, officials said. Authorities shot the man around 2 a.m. after he pointed a handgun at officers who tried to arrest him, police said. The man later died at a hospital.
The man's brother told police that he was mentally ill and had been untreated for years, according to a statement from Officer Garry Flot, a police spokesman.
Rosemarie Brocato, who lives about a block away from the house, said the trailer was occupied only by Eric Minshew, who had lived in the house since 2000. Brocato said she had told police, "He's sick. Please don't shoot him. He needs help."
Police did not confirm the identity of the person who was killed, but the home was listed under Minshew's name on a judicial advertisement posted online. The home had been put up for sale by the sheriff in May 2007 because of $78,300 in unpaid property taxes.
Block abandoned after Katrina
The whole block where the home stood appeared abandoned. Many houses have gone unrepaired since the storm, their windows broken. Minshew's trailer was the only one visible for blocks along that street.
Taped to Minshew's front window were a USA Today front-page article headlined "Do you have a legal right to own a gun?" and a no trespassing sign. The porch held a wreath, a cross and a plywood sign with "Jesus is my Messiah" in green paint. A car in the driveway had two flat tires.
Brocato said Minshew lived alone after the storm and that his short temper seemed to get worse. He seemed very lonely, she said, often stopping her to talk for a half-hour at a time when she passed his house.
"He just needed someone to talk to, I guess. I felt sorry for him," she said.
The FEMA inspection was a first step toward reclaiming the trailer. The federal agency has been pushing to get residents out of trailers across the Gulf Coast, in part because possibly dangerous levels of the chemical formaldehyde have been found in many of them.
'Very unfortunate situation'
FEMA spokesman James McIntyre said the agency cannot release any specifics about the case, such as when the man got the trailer or whether anyone else lived there with him. The officers involved in the shooting have been reassigned to administrative duties during the investigation, Flot said.
"This is a very unfortunate situation and our prayers go out to the family of the deceased," he said.
Lakeview, one of the city's more affluent neighborhoods, was under as much as 11 feet of water after the levee on the nearby 17th Street Canal broke during Katrina on Aug. 29, 2005.
While it has been one of the fastest to recover, it is not without scars from the flood. Some trailers were still parked outside homes under renovation, schools and firehouses have been slow to reopen and there are many vacant lots where homes were demolished because of damage suffered during the storm.