Shots on the Bridge

Greene, Ronnie. Shots on the Bridge: Police Violence and Cover-Up in the Wake of Katrina. Boston: Beacon Press, 2015.

Reason read: early review book for LibraryThing. Confessional – I chose this book because of Natalie Merchant’s song, “Go Down Moses” which was inspired by the events on the Danziger bridge. The fact that Natalie heard about the incident while living in Spain at the time blows my mind.

Ronnie Greene wants to send a strong message. Before he even gets to the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina he wants to make sure you understand this: historically, New Orleans has been a city of crooked cops. He outlines other incidents of police brutality and corruption that went on before September 4th, 2005. In his prologue he names Kenneth Bowen (who beat a second degree murder charge), Michael Hunter (suspended twice for leniency when investigating fellow officers), Len Davis (protected drug dealers), Antoinette Frank (helped murder people and then responded to her own crime)…the list goes on. Greene wants the reader to know these people are not above falsifying reports and planting evidence and inventing witnesses and looking the other way. Interestingly enough, he tells some of these same stories in greater detail at the end of the book as well.
On the flip side, Greene wants the reader to visualize the victims on the Danziger bridge as harmless folks. Ronald C. Madison was a mentally challenged man who couldn’t hurt a fly. He hadn’t evacuated New Orleans because he didn’t want to leave his dachshunds; the evacuation site wouldn’t take pets. His brother stayed behind to look after him. Teenager James Brissette was still in New Orleans because his mom had no plans to leave the city and his daddy had left without him. Cousin Jose Holmes Jr. was on the bridge because there were too many people already in the van used to evacuate. These people had already endured devastating hardships even before Hurricane Katrina. Ronald’s parents had lost a child to SIDS and another to a car accident. Sister Barbara had leukemia and Loretta had polio. Ronald wasn’t the only one mentally challenged. His brother Raymond had issues as well. James Brissette had lost a brother to a brain aneurysm and sister Andrea had cerebral palsy. Greene further humanizes the victims by telling the reader what their favorite television shows were and stresses that guns were not allowed in their households.
While the chapters are slightly misaligned (there is some repetition), Shots on the Bridge has the ability to motivate engaged thinking and encourage conversation. My roommate and I shared thoughts on a variety of topics surrounding police corruption and the events of Hurricane Katrina as a result of this book. We discussed the police being shielded by not only the natural disaster of flooding, but the human tragedy of looting and violence. The combination resulted in a city in utter chaos and devastation. It was easy for New Orleans police to hide behind the events before and after Katrina.

Author fact: Greene is an investigative reporter for the Associated Press.

Book trivia: There are no photographs. They will be inserted, along with the epilogue, before the sale date of August 18th, 2015. Just in time for the 10th anniversary of the devastating hurricane.