By CRAIG PITTMAN, Times Staff Writer
Lost in Baton Rouge, a gunman shoots him in an apparent robbery. Doctors leave the bullet in place for now.
A St. Petersburg Times reporter covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was shot and wounded late Monday night in Baton Rouge, La.
Marcus Franklin, 34, was treated and released from Baton Rouge General Hospital on Tuesday after doctors decided removing the bullet was too risky, at least for now.
Franklin said he had been up since before daybreak reporting on people returning to their homes in Jefferson Parish near New Orleans. After filing his report, Franklin headed to a Baton Rouge motel after sleeping four nights in his car.
He said he was driving on Interstate 110 in Baton Rouge when he discovered he was heading in the wrong direction, so he got off. He had been driving with the air conditioning off and the windows down to save gas, in short supply since the hurricane.
About 11:30 p.m., Franklin stopped at a poorly lit intersection in what police spokesman Sgt. Don Kelly described as "an older part of the city, a high-crime area."
"I didn't hear footsteps or anything," Franklin said. Suddenly, he heard a man say, "How much money you got?"
The man tried opening the passenger door of Franklin's rental car. That's when the reporter said he realized the man was holding what appeared to be a small caliber black revolver.
"I looked at the gun sort of in disbelief," Franklin said. He hit the gas to get away. "That's when I heard a pop. ... It sounded like the proverbial firecracker."
Franklin said he drove off quickly, then checked himself for wounds. He spotted blood on his shirt and discovered he had been shot in the stomach. He called 911 on his cell phone and police and emergency medical technicians showed up.
He was taken by ambulance to Baton Rouge General hospital, where he was kept overnight. A Baton Rouge police officer drove his rental car to the hospital, Franklin said. Upon his release from the hospital Tuesday, the Times chartered an air ambulance to fly him back to St. Petersburg.
A native of Detroit and a graduate of Wayne State University, Franklin has been a general assignment reporter for the Times for nearly three years.
Baton Rouge lies about 90 miles northwest of New Orleans. When thousands of New Orleans residents fled their city before and after the hurricane, many headed for Baton Rouge, swelling the population of the state capital beyond its usual 260,000.
Since then there have been widespread rumors of an increase in assaults and rapes. Last week Baton Rouge Mayor Melvin "Kip" Holden warned that he would not tolerate "lawlessness" from the evacuees.
But the Washington Post has reported that police officials say the crime rate is about the same as before the storm.
Kelly, the police spokesman, said no official evacuation centers are located in the area where Franklin was shot. He said the investigation of the shooting will be difficult since detectives have no crime scene and Franklin's quick glimpse of the gunman did not allow him to give police much of a description.
"We don't have much to go on," Kelly said.
Times staff researcher Angie Drobnic Holan contributed to this story.