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At the convention center: 'These little guys got guns'



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CNN Access
New Orleans (Louisiana)

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (CNN) -- Thousands of frustrated people waited for help Thursday amid dead bodies, feces and garbage with little food and water, and in 90-degree heat and rain.

Heightening the tension were the armed groups of men who have been terrorizing the streets. The desperation at New Orleans' Ernest N. Morial Convention Center led Mayor Ray Nagin to issue a "desperate SOS."

CNN's Wolf Blitzer spoke with Raymond Cooper, one of the people stranded there, and asked him what he was doing.

COOPER: I'm upstairs in the kitchen area utilizing one of the phones that I was walking by, looking for some water or anything I could bring down to some babies.

BLITZER: Did you find any?

COOPER: No, sir. There's no water at all in the building.

BLITZER: What is it like inside the convention center? There are thousands of people inside.

COOPER: Sir, you got about 3,000 people here in this -- in the convention center right now. They're hungry. Don't have any food. We was told two-and-a-half days ago to make our way to the Superdome or the convention center by our mayor. And which, when we got here, was no one to tell us what to do, no one to direct us, no authority figure. They had a couple of policemen out here, sir, about six or seven policemen. ... I went to tell them, "Hey, man, you got bodies in there. You got two old ladies that just passed, just had died, people dragging the bodies into little corners." One guy [asked] ... "Hey, man, anybody sleeping over here?" I'm like, "No." He dragged two bodies in there. Now ... I just found out there was a lady and an old man, the lady went to nudge him. He's dead.

BLITZER: Are there any National Guard personnel, any troops on the scene?

COOPER: Yes. There's troops passing by with their weapons, like a show of force and stuff, as if I'm in Iraq and stuff. I'm ex-military. I know what they look like. And that's basically what it is.

BLITZER: And what about police? You say there's about six police officers outside?

COOPER: There's six, seven police officers on the corner, back off to the side in a garage with their generators going on. They told me, said, "Hey, it is nothing that we can do."

BLITZER: So what are people eating? What are people drinking? The 3,000 people stuck inside?

COOPER: We have to walk to different little stores to find stuff that the looters had already broke in the doors and stuff like that. We have to, literally, pick up candy, cookies, sodas off the floor and stuff. Water is all over there. We have to walk it all the way back and ... give to people. I found some hams. I found some turkeys and stuff like that. And I just was handing it to the people ... and then the thing about it, you got these young teenage boys running around up here raping these girls.

BLITZER: Your reaction [to FEMA director, Michael Brown's announcement of 4,700 National Guard troops already in New Orleans].

COOPER: Let me give them a word of advice. Do not send the National Guard to this place without sending someone of authority to talk to the people and instruct them to what is ... going on and what is going to happen. Because if they send the National Guard ... I know what's going to happen. These little guys got guns running around here. ... They were shooting last night and stuff like that. Now you tell me, what you think is going to happen, Wolf?

BLITZER: Well, you're there ... When you say, Mr. Cooper, that people have guns, how many people do you think are armed right now inside that convention center?

COOPER: They have quite a few people running around here with guns and stuff. And I'm going to tell you what they're doing now. They're lined up outside. They got about 30 different lines ... outside waiting for buses. Now, in about an hour-and-a-half it's going to get dark. Their minds going to say, "Those buses are not going to come." They're going to act like crazy people.

They're already walking around here like zombies of the living dead, you know. I know what's going to happen.

So, please, don't send the National Guard. Send someone up in here -- send someone with a bullhorn outside the place that can talk to these people first before you send someone in here to try to [do] ... police work.

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