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June 5, 2008

Mentally Ill Man Shot Dead Over Vacating FEMA Trailer

It is easy for those that do not live in the gulf coast areas of Louisiana and Mississippi to forget that the scars of Hurricane Katrina are still wide open. There are hundreds, possibly thousands of people still living in FEMA trailers along the edges of those two states. One man, Eric Minshew was shot dead after he refused to let a Federal Agency Emergency Management Worker into his trailer for an inspection.

Eric Minshew, a 49 year old man with mental illness was shot by police after he allegedly pointed a handgun at them. Police also say that Eric fired a few shots at them as well. A neighbor reportedly asked the officers to not shoot Eric. She told them that he was sick and needed help.

Eric Minshew was one of the many mentally ill people in the world that really just needed the support and understanding. He was living in the family home for eight years before Hurricane Katrina came and damaged the home that he had great emotional ties to. He was moved into the FEMA trailer and the family was waiting for money from the government so that they could fix the home up and Minshew could move back in or sell the house.

The family and neighbors say that Eric’s mental illness increased after the hurricane but James Arey, a commander of the police department’s crisis intervention team said that Katrina had nothing to do with the man’s mental illness. The case had not been treated, according to the police commander and that was the problem.

Eric had a gun, family members say, because he had gotten a job as a security guard at some point. However, Eric was currently unemployed and he had posters taped to his door that said “Do you have a legal right to own a gun?” and a plywood sign that said
“Jesus is my Messiah”.

Recently federal agents have been urging residents to get out of the FEMA trailers. However, those that are still living in the trailers say that they have nowhere to go and that that is why they are still residing in them. Lakeview, the city where Eric was living was flooded with over 11 feet of water when the levee broke on the 17th Street Canal on August 29,2005. The area was decimated and some residents were relocated to other parts of the country. However, there are some who like Eric Minshew, have very little in the way of job possibilities and have been unable to get back on their feet.

For the commander to say that Eric’s mental illness had nothing to do with Hurricane Katrina seems to be an oversight. It seems to me that anyone with mental illness would be greatly effected by a natural disaster and losing their home. People that are not mentally ill also have had trouble in the wake of Hurricane Katrina so why wouldn’t a guy that was already sick not be effected? Of course, it is important for those with mental illness to keep up on their treatment. Unfortunately, some people are too sick to do that. What an sad state of affairs.

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