Five current or former police officers have been found guilty on a combined 25 counts of civil rights violations tied to fatal shootings on New Orleans’ Danziger Bridge in the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Jurors reached a verdict in the closely watched trial after three days of deliberations.
The shootings occurred on Danziger Bridge on September 4, 2005, six days after much of New Orleans went underwater after the powerful hurricane slammed into the Gulf Coast.
Prosecutors contend the officers opened fire on an unarmed family, killing 17-year-old James Brissette and wounding four others. Minutes later, one of the officers shot and killed Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old man described by Justice officials as having severe mental disabilities.
Madison was trying to flee the scene when he was shot, according to a Justice Department statement. One of the officers allegedly “stomped and kicked” Madison before he died, the statement noted.
Officers Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, Robert Faulcon and Anthony Villavaso were convicted in the shootings along with a fifth defendant, former detective Arthur Kaufman.
The five men are scheduled to be sentenced on December 14. Bowen, Gisevius, Faulcon and Villavaso are facing potential multiple life sentences, as well as additional penalties for charges tied to a conspiracy to cover up what happened on the bridge. Kaufman faces a maximum penalty of 120 years in prison.
“Today’s verdict by these jurors sends a powerful, a powerful, unmistakable message to public servants, to law enforcement officers and to the citizens we serve and indeed to the world,” U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said. “That message is that public officials and especially law enforcement officers will be held accountable for their acts, and that any abuse of power, especially that power that violates the rights and the civil liberties of our citizens, will have serious consequences.”
“The citizens of this country will not, should not, and we intend that they will never have to fear the individuals who are called upon to protect them,” Letten declared.
RTFA if you need your memory jogged. Local officials could have taken care of this – and didn’t. The police department could have come down on the side of justice and didn’t. Federal efforts on behalf of abused civil rights are still needed for justice in many of these United States.