NEW ORLEANS — The son of a 91-year-old woman who died slumped in her wheelchair after Hurricane Katrina -- an image that came to symbolize the government's slow response to the catastrophic storm -- sued the city and state Thursday.
Herbert Freeman Jr. accuses numerous state agencies and the city of New Orleans of gross negligence and willful misconduct in the death of his mother, Ethel Freeman. He alleges that they were ordered by New Orleans police to seek shelter at the city's convention center, even though no aid was available and there was no way out.
Once they reached the shelter, they found huge crowds and no food, water, medical supplies or buses. A police officer told Freeman to park his mother outside because buses were on the way. "He told me, 'We'll put her outside so that she can be first in line,' " Freeman said. "I said, 'How long will it be?' He said, 'Maybe an hour. Maybe two.' "
They waited outside in the heat for nearly 24 hours before she succumbed, Freeman said.
"Let's not forget: She survived the storm," said John Paul Massicot, an attorney for the family. "The storm didn't get her. She didn't survive the rescue."
The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages.