An AP photographer has left his former colleagues at the New Orleans Times-Picayune feeling shocked and betrayed over his failure to report police abuse that he witnessed in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, according to a story published yesterday by the Los Angeles Times.
“From his own testimony in a trial last fall against several New Orleans officers, it became clear that [Alex] Brandon withheld much of what he knew about the violent, rogue policing inflicted on some African American residents after the storm,” Los Angeles Times reporter James Rainey wrote in his column called On the Media.
Rainey said that Brandon’s former Times-Picayune colleagues have pressing questions to ask him: Why didn’t he tell them more of what he saw? Is there anything more he needs to tell them about what the New Orleans police did after Katrina? Does he have any regrets?
Brandon joined the AP in 2006, but he was part of the Times-Picayune team that covered the disaster in New Orleans in September 2005. At the time, he allegedly told editors that police had shot suspected looters in a gun battle—the police version of events—when in fact they had fired on flood victims who posed no threat, and who were trying to flee across a bridge from a flooded and lawless section of the city. And Brandon reportedly said nothing to colleagues about his knowledge of another September, 2005 shooting death by police until he testified in court last fall against the police officers involved. It was an excessive force case, and three officers were convicted.
Rainey’s story suggests that Brandon had turned a blind eye to the police brutality because he had embedded himself with a police unit right after Katrina and had become too close to them. One of his former colleagues said “it was like he was a double agent,” while another questioned Brandon’s moral courage, according to Rainey.
John Daniszewski, a senior managing editor for the AP, told Rainey that he couldn’t comment on Brandon’s activities while he was with the Times-Picayune. “And his service since joining the AP has been appropriate in all respects,” Daniszewski added.
AP spokesperson Paul Colford declined a request for further comment. We also asked Brandon for an interview, but Colford responded on his behalf, declining that request, too.
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