She was retrieving a piece of sausage from the cooler in her car and planned to grill it so she and her husband, Alfred, could eat, according to her defenders. The parking lot was almost a block from the looted store, they said.
"That woman was never, never in that store," said Naisha Williams, 23, a New Orleans bank security guard who said she witnessed the episode and is distantly related to Maten. "If they want to take it to court, I'm willing to get on the stand and tell them the police is wrong. She is totally innocent."
Police Capt. Steve Carraway said Wednesday that Maten was arrested in the checkout area of a small store next to police headquarters.
The arrest report is short and assigns the value of goods Maten is alleged to have taken at $63.50. The items are not identified.
"When officers arrived, the arrestee was observed leaving the scene with items from the store. The store window doors were observed smashed out, where entry to the store was made," police reported.
Christine Bishop, the owner of the Check In Check Out deli, said that she was angry that looters had damaged her store, but that she would not want anyone charged with a crime if the person had simply tried to get food to survive. "Especially not a 70-year-old woman," Bishop said.
"Why would someone loot when they had a car with a refrigerator and had paid with a credit card at the hotel?" asked Becnel. "The circumstances defy the theory of looting.
As Maten's case neared conclusion, controversy over the bridge blockade intensified.
Three days after Hurricane Katrina made landfall, Gretna officials learned that people trapped in downtown New Orleans were being told to make their way over the bridge called the Crescent City Connection.
Officials quickly organized a bus caravan to take 6,000 victims to an evacuation center about 16 miles away, but they were overwhelmed, as people began gathering near a mall just over the bridge.