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Mentally ill man shot dead in New Orleans

By Gimena Gordillo | March 23, 2007 | Page 2

A MENTALLY ill man was shot and killed by Louisiana National Guard military police in his home in New Orleans' Katrina-ravaged Lower Ninth Ward. Fifty-three-year-old Terry Burton was a frequent patient at mental hospitals for the last 30 years, according to his family.

National Guard soldiers patrolling the Lower Ninth Ward in the early morning hours of March 8 saw Burton riding a bicycle and "behaving oddly." After an altercation in which he supposedly pulled a knife and threw a piece of broken glass at a soldier, Burton fled into the damaged home where he rode out the flooding from Hurricane Katrina a year and a half earlier.

The National Guard soldiers, joined by New Orleans police, entered the house and confronted Burton. They say he pointed a gun at them--which turned out to be a "rusted, black metal BB gun"--and a National Guardsman shot him several times, killing him.

Burton's family and community members called a vigil the following day, and then a protest at City Hall to demand a fair and thorough investigation. But the New Orleans Police Department immediately issued a statement that the shooting was "appropriate and lawful."

What you can do

Community members are asking for donations to help the Burton family give Terry a funeral service and bring relatives back to New Orleans to pay their last respects. Send all donations to: Ada Burns, 822 Sumner St., New Orleans, LA 70114--please indicate in the memo line of your checks that these donations are for the Terry Burton Memorial Fund.

 

More than a year and a half after Hurricane Katrina, neighborhoods like the Lower Ninth Ward remain devastated and without social services. In the city as a whole, public mental health services are almost nonexistent.

Burton, said friend and neighbor Louis Keller Jr. in a statement issued by the Common Ground Collective, "was a man suffering from an untreated mental illness and had been actively seeking assistance, but with the lack of mental health resources available in the city, he was left with no help."

According to city officials, there isn't enough money to reopen Charity Hospital, the main public hospital in the city. But there is enough money to keep 300 National Guard members patrolling New Orleans since June 2006.

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