Man Masquerading as Evacuee Arrested in East Texas

9-29-05 - A man posing as a Hurricane Katrina evacuee whose wife and son drowned in New Orleans was actually a convicted felon from East Texas with outstanding warrants, police said.

Walter Ray Stall, 43, of Palestine was arrested Tuesday after telling a Tyler television station that his wife and 3-year-old son drowned as he tried to herd them into the attic of their New Orleans home.

Police said he had also applied for $2,000 in federal assistance for hurricane victims.

Police said Stall, who had claimed to be "Ray Johnson," had warrants for felony theft of a firearm and unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon. Smith County Lt. Craig Shelton said Stall was also charged with failure to identify himself as a fugitive.

Authorities notified television station KLTV of Stall's identity after the interviewed aired.

Shelton said Stall might have gotten away it if he had not agreed to a live televised interview in an area where his family lives.

"There are those who lost family members and everything they have during these two tragedies, and then here's this guy taking advantage of people who were trying to help. The feds should make an example out of this guy," he said.

Stall, who claimed he swam to the Superdome and hitchhiked to Texas, said he had received money and gifts and was living with a volunteer.

FBI Special Agent Peter Galbraith said his agency may pursue federal charges against Stall.

Police said Stall was released from prison in 2004 after he spent six years serving a sentence for charges that included injury to a child and theft.