When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans John McCusker, a photographer on the Times-Picayune, the local paper, emerged as something of a hero. When the floodwaters hit the newspaper’s offices McCusker declined to join his colleagues in relocating to new offices in Baton Rouge. After the Times –Picayune building was evacuated, McCusker swam through the rising muck and, managing to keep his equipment dry, started to take pictures of the damage from a kayak he found floating down the street. Some of his pictures were the most harrowing to come out of the disaster. They helped win the paper two Pulitzer Prizes.
Fast forward a year and McCusker, after trying to re-invent his life, living in what remained of his family home, began to show signs of the personal damage the storm had done to him. Last week, in an episode that began with the New Orleans police stopping him for erratic driving. McCusker appeared to go beserk, backed up his car and pinned down a policeman. To stop him doing further damage, the police subdued him with a Taser gun.
That’s when he began to pour out his troubles. He told the police he didn’t have enough money to rebuild his home He wanted to die. “Please shoot me” he begged the police. “Just kill me…. Just kill me” he insisted. Now the photographer who was a local hero at the time of Hurricane Katrina, is in a prison c ell under medical care. His plight has stirred New Orleans, and his old colleagues.. One of the Times Picayune editors, Terry Baquet,, who arrived on the scene just to see his old colleague being taken away said unhappily. “Katrina affected us all. We still live with Katrina every day”
McCuskers’ fate? He still faces charges of reckless driving and trying to run down a policeman. His old job, the paper says, is still there for him – if he can survive the new crisis in his life.
Since news of his arrest and plight broke donations to help him have poured in. Within 48 hours more than $9,000 had been donated.