NEW ORLEANS – A man fatally shot by police after a 10-hour standoff Wednesday had suffered with mental illness for much of his life, and it worsened in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, a family member said.
Eric Minshew, 49, ordered Federal Emergency Management Agency workers to leave his trailer when they arrived for an inspection Tuesday afternoon, according to accounts from police. Later, police said he fired at them several times and was fatally shot after pointing a handgun at officers who tried to arrest him. No officers were injured.
Rosemarie Brocato, who lives about a block away from the house, said she had told police, "He's sick. Please don't shoot him. He needs help."
The man had moved into the family home about eight years ago, with no money and no job, his brother, Homer M. Minshew III, said Wednesday. He survived the hurricane, but the family was awaiting government aid so they could either pay the house off or fix it up and sell it.
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He suffered for years with mental problems that "got a lot worse after the storm," his brother said. He felt his hopes of inheriting his parents' home — a place he'd felt a strong connection to — diminish, he said. He owned a gun because he had gotten a job as a security guard, according to his brother.
"He had a lot of serious mental issues and would all of a sudden go off on a rant about the government, the local, state government, the feds and everything else," he said. "He has some issues. He just snapped. Thank God nobody else got hurt."
James Arey, commander of the police department's crisis intervention team, said the man had not been treated and that the case "doesn't have anything to do with Katrina." Police did not officially release Minshew's identity.
The trailer was near the family home on a block that appeared abandoned. Many houses have gone unrepaired since the storm, and have broken windows. 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.
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, said Officer Garry Flot, a police spokesman.
"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.