A jury today convicted five New Orleans police officers of a combined 25 counts of civil rights violations for shooting indiscriminately into a crowd of fleeing residents in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
On Sept. 4, 2005, a week after Hurricane Katrina, police officers responded to a call that there were two snipers shooting at officers on the Danziger Bridge. According to the Department of Justice, once officers arrived they began shooting into the crowd, killing two men, a teenager named James Brissette and 40-year-old Ronald Madison, a man with mental disabilities. Four others were shot, including Susan Bartholomew, who lost an arm in the shooting.
While the officers were found guilty of the 25-counts of civil rights violations, they were not charged with murder. The Times-Picayune offers more details:
The verdicts were a huge victory for federal prosecutors, who won on virtually every point, save for their contention that the shootings amounted to murder. The jury rejected that notion, finding that the officers violated the victims’ civil rights, but that their actions did not constitute murder.
Sentencing for the five officers, all of them likely facing lengthy prison terms, has been set for Dec. 14 before U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt.
Four of the five officers — Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, Robert Faulcon and Anthony Villavaso — have been in custody since their arraignment.
The fifth, retired Sgt. Arthur "Archie" Kaufman, who was not involved in the shootings but headed the police investigation into them, remains free on bail.
The Danziger Bridge trial is the largest of a string of prosecutions the Department of Justice has pursued against New Orleans police officers accused of civil rights violations for fatal shootings that took place in the days after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Colorlines.com will bring you more thorough coverage of the trial and local reaction to it on Monday. For our past Danziger Bridge coverage visit colorlines.com/tag/Danziger_Bridge.