Mar 292012
 

With guns drawn, the NOPD SWAT team preparees to enter a house where a mentally ill man had locked himself inside Thursday afternoon. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

A young man suffering from mental problems and initially believed to be waving a sword kept police at bay for nearly six hours outside his Upperline Street home on Thursday afternoon before surrendering.

The man’s weapon turned out not to be a sword, but a long wooden object, said Officer Frank Robertson. No other weapons were found on the man or in his home, and no one was harmed in the confrontation, Robertson said, though police did deploy tear gas into the home in an attempt to force the man out.

The standoff began around 12:30 p.m Thursday when the 22-year-old man’s mother called police about her son, whom she said was “irate and out of control,” said Officer Garry Flot, another NOPD spokesman. He was described as waving a sword around, but when police arrived, he locked himself inside, Flot said.

From that point, police began to assemble outside the home in the 3200 block of Upperline. Crisis negotiators on a loudspeaker tried unsuccessfully to coax the man out, and shortly before 6 p.m., SWAT team members fired several rounds of tear gas into the house. A team of officers then entered and made what Robertson termed “peaceful contact” with the man, and he agreed to surrender. He was then led out of the house, shirtless, to a waiting patrol car.

The man won’t be charged, Robertson said, but will be given a full mental evaluation. Police have been to the home several other times in recent weeks to handle disturbances he has caused, Robertson said.

Many neighbors said they hadn’t met the man, though his father is well known for the garden he has planted in the yard of a vacant house next door. One neighbor said he had encountered the young man for the first time three days ago, when the young man showed up at his house to say that the neighbor’s dog had escaped. He seemed unusually offended that the dog had been on his property, but also acted as if he wanted to stay and socialize, the neighbor said.

Several neighborhood residents, however, drew immediate parallels between the standoff and the cuts to mental health services in the region.

“It’s all Bobby Jindal’s fault!” called out Demetrius Dillon from the sidewalk as police vehicles rolled past her house. “Cutting our treatments, and closing our hospitals!”

Leon Price, a Bywater resident visiting his mother on Upperline, said that in addition to the cuts in mental services, police are too busy patrolling tourist areas to serve the city’s neighborhoods.

“It’s not just about the French Quarters,” Price said. “At some point, we’re citizens, we live here. They overlook that, and we get stuck with situations like this.”

SWAT team members keep aim at the house on Upperline while crisis negotiators were trying to coax the man outside. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

An armored police vehicle rolls down Upperline. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

A neighbor watches from down the block as police prepare to open the front door of a home where the young man barricaded himself inside. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Dozens of police officers fill Upperline Street immediately after the standoff was cleared. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Contact Robert Morris at rmorris@NolaMessenger.com, or post your comment below.

  • Jennifer

    every single day I encounter people who need help and can’t get it. This city is no longer about the original residents-It’s for tourists and all of these new people from the east and west coasts showing up here and claiming to be locals. “Making changes” to our city and then leaving. People who were here before Katrina deserve to be the focus of our money and attention.

    • Andrew

      I could not agree with you more

    • Fat Harry

      Wow. It’s that “us vs. them” attitude that made New Orleans such a backwards place for the past, oh, forever. Since when did “new people” become such a four letter word?

  • sally stevens

    Re: ” ….. that in addition to the cuts in mental services, police are too busy patrolling tourist areas to serve the city’s neighborhoods.” The combination of cuts to mental health services, combined with an ill-trained police force makes me feel much safer when the cops are not in my neighborhood …. we defintely need more social services and the restoration of mental, physical and public health monies ……..

  • Pam

    Total agreement here for the above comments.

    Has anyone else noticed that New Orleans is very close to being a caricature of itself?

    No offense to the many, many, well-intentioned new residents – but really, please understand that the various cultures of our city are not all about the things so often embraced by the tourism industry and media.

    Second lines for grocery store openings??

  • Cecile

    The mental health system that we have is inadequate to handle the wealth of folks that live here who suffer from the medical disability of mental illness, hospitals are simply revolving doors, families cannot access information due to HIPPA laws and most turn to alcohol and drugs to deal with the symptoms that accompany this illness. I think it is safe to say that this boys family will attest to all of the above…tragic

  • surfin’

    IT SEEMS MORE INSANE TO WASTE SIX HOURS AND SERIOUS NUMBERS OF POLICEMEN ….MEANWHILE THE REST OF THE CITY
    WAS WITHOUT CRIME PROTECTION!