The Department of Justice has charged Ignatius Hills, a fifth New Orleans police officer involved in Danziger Bridge incident, with trying to cover up the actual turn of events that led to the deaths of two men days after Hurricane Katrina.
Hills is one of the “Danziger 7,” a group of NOPD cops who responded to a call on the Danziger Bridge on Sept. 4, 2005 and, according to eyewitness reports, started shooting at unarmed civilians who were crossing the bridge. The DOJ has charged four other cops with similar conspiracy charges. So far, all have pleaded guilty and resigned from the force.
At the time of the shooting, the Danziger 7 claimed that they started shooting in self-defense after they were shot at, but collected eyewitness accounts say that was not true. Eyewitnesses also say that the police report conflicted with the actual timeline of events, and that police organized a cover-up during a subsequent investigation.
In the years since the Danziger Bridge incident, NOPD representatives have fought off allegations of racially biased and aggressive policing by trotting out Hills, a member of the Danziger 7 who is also Black.
Hills has been charged with falsifying information in a “gist”—a charging document for the department that explained the eight counts against Lance Madison, a man who was arrested that day and whose brother, Ronald, was shot and killed on the bridge. But the DOJ charged that Hills didn’t have firsthand knowledge of the accusations against Madison. Hills has also been charged with providing false statements to NOPD’s internal investigators and knowingly lying to and cooperating with cover-up efforts.
The Danziger Bridge incident has galvanzied New Orleans, a community long accustomed to reports of police brutality and a lack of police accountability. The scandals have gotten the attention of the Department of Justice, which is now considering taking on deeper reform of the department.