NEW ORLEANS -- Police Thursday shot and killed three blacks, two of them suspects in the slaying of a fellow officer, in simultaneous raids that black community leaders said could spark racial trouble.
The deaths brought to four the number of blacks killed by police in the Algiers section of New Orleans since officer Greg Neupert, 23, was gunned down in the neighborhood Saturday and found bleeding to death next to his patrol car.
Blacks complained that the police drastically overreacted to the slaying, roughing up residents of the mostly black Fischer Housing Project and wantonly breaking into apartments.
'I'm very afraid for the police department plus people's lives because of the way the police has acted upon the public,' said Gloria Williams, a board member of Total Community Action at the Fischer project.
'We just might have a riot. I'm very, very scared that that's going to happen. We've held everybody down for years and years but it has gotten so now we can't talk to anybody.'
Police Superintendent James Parsons displayed three handguns at a news conference announcing Thursday's shootings, which followed the shooting of a black man late Tuesday in Algiers by police.
The three blacks killed Thursday in two separate but simultaneous raids were James Billy Jr., 26, Reginald Miles, 26, and Sherry Lynn Singleton, 26. Parsonssaid the three pulled guns and fired at officers, giving police no choice but to return fire.
Parsons said Billy was believed to have shot Neupert, while Miles was wanted as Billy's accomplice.
'It appears, and there is evidence to justify the assumption, that (Neupert) did observe a drug deal in progress,' he said.
A woman who lives next to Miles' house, where he and Miss Singleton were killed, said she heard Miss Singleton pleading with officers, 'Please don't shoot! Please don't shoot!'
The woman, quoted in The Times-Picayune--The States-Item, refused to give her name. She said she overheard one of the policemen involved in the shooting congratulating another, saying 'We got 'em.'
On Labor Day, two policemen shot and killed a black man at the Desire Housing Project during a struggle for one of the officers' guns. That shooting also stirred black protests, but a grand jury just this week cleared the officers of wrongdoing in that case.
Police went to the homes of Billy and Miles at 2:35 a.m. with search and arrest warrants.
A woman and a child were taken from Billy's home, Parsons said, but Billy 'retreated to a rear room with a .38 caliber weapon. He exchanged fire with police officers and was dead on the scene.'
When officers tried to arrest Miles at his home, they found him in a bedroom and he said he wanted to get dressed, Parsons said. But Parsons said Miles pulled a pistol from his clothes and shot at the officers, who killed him with return fire.
Miss Singleton was also at the Miles home. Parsons said she ran into a bathroom and tried twice to fire a .22-caliber revolver at officers. But the gun did not fire and the policemen killed her.
Parsons said the investigation gave police new leads into drug traffic in the area.
'We found a lot of people who have been intimidated by those drug dealers and by the other people that buy drugs in that community,' Parsons said. 'They're very reluctant to talk, very much concerned for their safety, and most of the information that came out of there came by telephone anonymously after police would leave.'