Looters and Would-Be Shooters, A Common Theme in US Disaster Zones

August 29, 2017 Updated: August 29, 2017

A Texas homeowner is warning would-be looters that if they try to rob his house, it could be their last.

“You loot, I shoot,” reads a spray-painted sign on a front lawn in Portland, Texas, just across the bay from Corpus Christi.

Local TV news station KIII didn’t interview the man, but found neighbors supported the sentiment, even if they didn’t want to put a sign up themselves.

“We’re in a state of disaster,” said one mother, wishing to keep her face and name out of news.

“If I needed to shoot somebody to protect my stuff, if they broke into my house, I think that’s appropriate.”

But even though she said she was ready to take that kind of action to protect herself and her family, she could also understand what might drive someone to loot.

“When you have people that have lost everything, you need food, you need clothes, people get desperate and you go into that kind of mindset,” the mother said.

While other neighbors supported the sentiment—suggesting that if someone breaks into their house, “they’re asking for it”,—another man said the sign might have gone too far.

“I don’t think you need to threaten people like that, but if you’re that person doing those kind of things — you run the risk.”

New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina: House in formerly flooded neighborhood of Eastern New Orleans has "You Loot We Shoot" notice. Mazda pickup truck out front. (Infrogmation/Wikimedia Commons)
A house in formerly flooded neighborhood of Eastern New Orleans in 2005 warns looters of potentially deadly consequences. (Infrogmation/Wikimedia Commons)

The slogan on the sign has popped up before, in disaster zones from Hurricane Katrina to a neighborhood in West Virginia, where locals were fed up with a flood of drug-driven property crime. 

“Neighborhood Watch / Drunks with Guns / U loot / We shoot!” read their sign.

“We don’t want the drugs up here, we don’t want the thievery,” the woman who posted the sign told reporters.

When Fayette County in West Virginia suffered flooding in 2016, out-of-area looters began to appear and met with a warning from Sheriff Steve Kessler.

“Anyone we catch looting will be arrested and jailed,” said Sheriff Kessler. “If the residents of this area catch you first, you may not make it to jail,” he said on the deparment’s Facebook page.

The sign has also popped up in California when wild fires forced the evacuation of Pope Valley, 80 miles north of San Francisco, in 2015.

That version made sure its audience was clear: “Attn. Scum You Loot We Shoot.”

KRON4 News reported the sign was posted anonymously at the border of Pope Valley and Middletown.

A sign warning would-be looters in Bridge City, Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike in 2008. Residents on a community street made sure it was clear looters would not be tolerated. (Junglecat/Wikimedia Commons)
A sign warning would-be looters in Bridge City, Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike in 2008. Residents on a community street made sure it was clear looters would not be tolerated. (Junglecat/Wikimedia Commons)

The sign has also shown up in earlier Texas disaster zones, including Bridge City, in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. Residents on a community street posted a sign letting people know that looting would not be tolerated.

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