Saturday, April 02, 2011

Knowing a good friend who was a friend of the late Jim Dugan is to know how terrible the whole situation has been for friends and family involved.  The fact that a senseless accident was exacerbated by a witness' lateness in coming forward and by the non-action of the 5th District has made things harder to bear.  May his memory forever be for a blessing.

The one who has been keeping up with the developments and posting them is Champ Superstar - check them out here, here, here, and here.

A major account by Eve Kidd Crawford of the bumbling of the local police in this matter is here.  Some excerpts:
On Saturday, Jim’s friend Abby Van Deerlin, a lawyer, and Sarah and I, two journalists, went to the Bywater police station with printouts from the Facebook group in which Kelly had stated, again, that she could not be sure he made it out of the water. We just wanted the police to know that there was a very high probability that he did not make it out of the water and that they should be focusing their efforts there.

At that point, the woman behind the desk said that NOPD didn’t handle anything in the water. She told us that she couldn’t even swim and that it was far too dangerous for NOPD to do water searches. She said Coast Guard would help recover a body when it surfaced. She said Harbor Police could possibly help search for a body. She said we could call the coroner. She did not seem to sense our urgency.

We asked when we could expect anyone to look at our printouts, and she said nothing could happen until the only copy machine in the office was fixed because she’d need to make copies for every person involved in the case. When will it be fixed? we asked. She didn’t know exactly but assured us that it wouldn’t stay broken for days.

Feeling defeated, we left. Abby made the copies herself and delivered them back to the police station. No one has contacted any of us about them...

...A volunteer dive team from Texas, EquuSearch, was finally called in by the police yesterday (March 27th). They have known since Wednesday that he had fallen into the river and not been seen since.

Another friend, Molly, called both NOPD and Harbor Police and had this to say on the Facebook group: “I called NOPD just to ask why Harbor Police or Coast Guard haven't resumed a boat search to supplement the dive team search, and mostly just to let them know that the public cares about this. So I was surprised when neither the NOPD public information officer nor the Harbor Police shift lieutenant could give me accurate information about the search. NOPD sent me to Harbor Police, saying they would be the ones to decide to resume a boat search. But when I called Harbor Police, they said NOPD's the lead and they're waiting on instructions from them. So I called NOPD back, got in touch with Officer Williams, the public information officer on duty at the dive search site. She repeated what the other PIO had said, that Harbor Police is responsible for deciding whether to resume a search. I told her what HP had told me, that NOPD is the lead, and that it looks pretty bad that neither of them knows what the other is doing or supposed to be doing. So all I said was, if NOPD has not yet coordinated a resumed downriver search with Harbor Police, Coast Guard and downriver parish emergency operations, then that should be done, because obviously you can't rely on this dive team searching one spot on the river. She said she would look into it.”

Molly later reported back that the Coast Guard wasn’t involved because they only look for living people and the detective and the Coast Guard had determined that it was impossible for him to have survived in the river. We all knew that. We weren’t living in a fantasy world where he’d be found alive in the river clinging to a piece of driftwood. But we were never told – by anyone – why dive teams weren’t called in sooner, and it’s been nothing but a jurisdictional nightmare since this all began. I know resources are scarce everywhere, but, you know, they found Douglas Schantz. They found Brian Reed. Jim wasn’t a big shot, and his brother doesn’t play pro-football. But Jim was still better-connected in terms of friends and resources than many other people, and we all should be worth looking for. As Jim's friend Margaret Davidson said on the Facebook group: “What about people who fall into the water who don't have 1,600 friends with computers and connections? This whole thing is heartbreaking, and the idea of the countless others that it's happened to without so much as a whisper just makes it that much more despicable.”

Sarah and I went today to search surveillance footage from Turn Services, a private business located near where Jim went into the river. We found nothing, but it was good to be able to cross that off the list. “Have the police contacted you?” Sarah asked. They said no, no one from the police had been in touch.
Ummm, why did they call in EquuSearch when there is already a dive and rescue group operating locally?  What exactly is the NOPD's procedure for finding people who may have taken a tumble into the Mississippi?  Wait until they float up in their jurisdiction?  Pass the buck to the Harbor Police who will pass it right back to them?  And, of course, this has to involve the worst of the police districts in the city.  Don't die suspiciously in the 5th, New Orleans residents.

A Fundrazr account has been set up for the recovery of Dugan's body and for his seven-year-old daughter.  But we must still, by all means, keep demanding the answers to these questions and the changes that will ensure this doesn't happen to another family.

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