The so-called Cajun Navy, a loose conglomerate of volunteer boat rescuers that first came together in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, was eventually credited with saving some 10,000 people from the ensuing floods. Twelve years later, groups calling themselves the Cajun Navy are in Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. It’s safe to say it’s been a little rougher going.
Let’s start with something that’s unequivocally good: According to The Times-Picayune, three men who identified with the Cajun Navy found a woman floating face down in water on Monday. What they did next was heroic.
“We jumped out and got her and gave her compressions right there in the water. We were holding her from behind,” one of the men, Joshua Lincoln, told The Times-Picayune. The woman, identified as Wilma Ellis, 73, eventually came to, wet and disoriented but alive.
“We got her back to safety, and that’s that,” Lincoln later told CNN.
Which is great! But at some point in the midst of all of that happening, there was trouble elsewhere, with a Cajun Navy organizer named Clyde Cain telling CNN some disturbing allegations: that some volunteers had been shot at while trying to help.
Which is awful, if true! Almost immediately though, on Twitter at least, people expressed their skepticism that it had happened at all, with Cain later taking to Facebook live to clarify “the facts,” which mainly consisted of looters in various guises afoot, he claimed, in addition to the shooting. Yes, the shooting happened, Cain insisted, but, no, no one had been shot, despite rumors to the contrary (which he sparked by going on CNN in the first place.)
“No one actually got shot. They shot at the boats. I’m not sure if they actually shot at it, or up in the air, but, shots were fired,” he said, before going on to blame CNN for any misconceptions. “I used to call it ‘completely negative news.’”
(Cain is an organizer at the Louisiana Cajun Navy, which has over 180,000 likes on Facebook, but is different from Cajun Navy 2016, which has over 93,000 likes on Facebook, and issued a statement Tuesday disavowing themselves of Cain’s shooting claim.)
Eventually, after Cain’s initial interview, and his Facebook clarification, authorities told the Associated Press that they’d received no reports of shots being fired involving the Cajun Navy, suggesting that the shooting might not have even happened at all. Did it? We’ll probably never know, though it’s fair to say that Cain, for one, should probably stop talking about it, since his interview with CNN and subsequent Facebook live post seemed to only add fuel to the chaos on the ground, in a situation where some people probably already have itchy trigger fingers.
“We got a lot of people wanting to know if we can bring our guns down there,” Cain said on Facebook, before adding, not entirely reassuringly, “We’re here to rescue people, not shoot anybody.”
Officials, meanwhile, said that police officers had completed over 2,000 rescue missions over the weekend, and The New York Times said Tuesday that over 30,000 people were in shelters, with rescues continuing and 12,000 National Guardsmen activated. The professionals, in other words, remain hard at work.