Garda Brian Hanrahan may be familiar with that sort of violence, but at a distance. He works in Newcastlewest, County Limerick, which is far more rural and peaceful than the big city of Limerick. A murder is quite rare, and the gardai are more likely to be dealing with cases of cattle rustling or a battle between Traveller factions. As he has recently learned, Newcastlewest criminals are a far cry from their American counterparts.
|It isn't all floats and beads during Mardi Gras|
Mr. Hanrahan thought it would be brilliant to vacation in New Orleans during the Mardi Gras madness that draws in tourists who aren't quite so aware of the crime problem in the unique city. Certainly the local authorities would prefer that tourists be safe while partying, but the notoriously corrupt police force can't keep all the criminals in check. The criminals, for their part, see Mardi Gras as their best season, with all those drink-impaired out-of-towners stumbling along like little lambs unaware of the wolves.
So there was Mr. Hanrahan in New Orleans, drawn away from the crowds by some friendly-sounding lad who told him about an after-hours bar. A trusting sort from a small town, the garda proceeded to withdraw money from an ATM to cover the costs, and off he went with his new mate, without an escort, in company with a stranger. The new mate had an accomplice who pulled out a gun and demanded Mr. Hanrahan's wallet, now refreshed with 200 American dollars. Mr. Hanrahan was having none of it. He's a guard himself and deals with criminals all the time. He refused to hand over his wallet. He told the robber to go fuck himself.
However, in America, the criminals do not use knives, but guns. It doesn't matter how illegal it might be for them to own a weapon. They break the law on a daily basis, and gun ownership is such a small crime in comparison to the armed robberies.
When the Newcastlewest garda failed to give up his money, the robber shot him and then rifled his pockets, taking the wallet and the money.. Lucky for Mr. Hanrahan that his assailant was such a poor shot or the man would be dead. As it is, he is in hospital recovering from gunshot wounds to the legs and lower back. Even more lucky that he was shot in front of a residence where a dog started barking on hearing the commotion, alerting the homeowner who then called the police.
New Orleans police have identified one suspect as a 40-year-old black male who is known to them. This particular crime was not his first, nor is it likely to be his last. They are also searching for his accomplice who did the shooting. Both will be charged with attempted murder, a serious crime intended to get them off the streets for more than a few months.
New Orleans detectives are going to solve this case. They are motivated, in part, because Mr. Hanrahan is one of them, a man who serves and protects the people of his community. But more than that, Mr. Hanrahan is a tourist who will go home and tell his friends about how dangerous New Orleans is, and the story will spread through An Garda Siochana and the number of visitors from Ireland will shrink.
The city desperately needs the tourists and the money they bring because there isn't much industry in a city that sits dangerously below sea level. The last hurricane showed how precarious commerce can be when everything can be wiped out with one storm.
If Mr. Hanrahan had asked me before making his trip, I could have told him about friends in Chicago who were debating a long weekend holiday in New Orleans until they checked the calendar. It's Mardi Gras, they said. People get shot in the streets during Mardi Gras. And they cancelled their plans.