Neighbors thrilled after squatters are removed from Bywater home

Bywater residents meet to discuss problem of squatters

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The removal of four squatters in Bywater brings a sense of relief to many who live nearby. The NOPD arrested the four Tuesday afternoon.

At Tuesday night's Bywater neighborhood association meeting, homeowners compared squatting stories.

"I have seen the ones on Independence and Marais, and they've been there almost three years," resident Daisy Butler said.

"They're around. We've got low-lifes all over the place," Robert Zas said.

Earlier in the afternoon, NOPD officers raided a home in the 3400 block of North Rampart Street to kick out four people who had been holed up inside since the Friday before Mardi Gras. The three men and one woman are members of a group called Washitah Mu'ur Nation.

In the 11 days they lived there, the group changed the locks to Fred Hines' home and moved in a pool table, mattresses and personal belongings. In the mess left behind, we found concert tickets, bank cards and even a book titled, "How to Hustle and Win."

"No one should have to go through this. No homeowner should have to go through this," Hines said.

The home had been vacant and was up for sale. Hines lives in California. His neighbors and realtor noticed the squatters.

"The occupiers were very stubborn and articulate in a weird way," neighbor George Bishop said.

Hines flew to New Orleans to deal with the situation, but when he first called police, the group wasn't kicked out.

"We had an officer who came over here to investigate and was given a legal document by one of the persons inside or what appeared to be a legal document," said NOPD Michael Harrison.

Harrison said the city attorney determined the document was a fake. A search warrant and arrest warrants were obtained, which led to Tuesday's actions.

"Now it's time to clean up and move on from there," Hines said after the arrests.

Hines has plans to install a security system in an attempt to keep the home safe while he heads back to California.

The Washitah Mu'ur Nation is a sovereign citizens group that, according to Harrison, has no regard for state or local laws. Only two of the people arrested have, so far, been identified by police. They're 18-year-old Danamaria Thornton and 24-year-old Devin Garner.

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