New Orleans Cops Sentenced For Katrina Killings
Five New Orleans former police officers have received harsh sentences from a federal judge for their role in the infamous killing of two civilians and subsequent cover up during the Hurricane Katrina disaster.
In what became known as the Danziger Bridge Shootings,
six people were shot in all. The officers had opened fire on an unarmed
family, killing 17-year-old James Brissette and wounding four others.
Minutes later, Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old man with severe mental
disabilities, was shot in the back as he was trying to flee the scene.
They received prison terms ranging from six to 65 years.
The murders had been covered up, with a number of other officers
assisting. Louisiana had refused to prosecute the men, so some of the
convictions were for civil rights violations.
U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt also accused
prosecutors of cutting overly lenient plea deals with five other
officers who cooperated with the civil rights investigation. The former
officers pleaded guilty to helping cover up the shooting and are already
serving prison terms ranging from three to eight years.
There have been a string of cases of officers convicted for killings or facing trial for murder following the hurricane.
Last year, two officers were found guilty in the beating to death of
Raymond Robair, a handyman. In December 2011, a jury convicted three
officers and acquitted two in killing 31-year-old Henry Glover and
burning his body.
While many officers bravely helped citizens, 200 fled the city before
Katrina hit and there have been extensive reports of some officers
engaging in looting.
Last year, the Justice Department concluded that the New Orleans
police department had engaged in patterns of misconduct. Their findings
range from excessive use of force to poor training, lack of supervision
and illegal profiling.
There have also been accusations of violence and torture by private security firms in the Hurricane’s wake, although no charges have been laid in those cases.
Several civilians — almost all of them African American — were killed
under suspicious circumstances in incidents involving police and white
vigilantes. For years, family members and advocates called for official
investigations and were rebuffed. Activists even brought charges to the
United Nations, filing a shadow report in February 2008 with the UN
Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Geneva.
With the most notorious Danzinger Bridge case, it wasn’t until 2008 (three years after the event) when journalist AC Thompson,
a staff reporter for ProPublica, became interested and justice came
within sight. The following year the Justice Department took on the case
and is now engaged in one of the most wide-ranging investigations of a police department
in recent US history. Dozens of officers are facing lengthy prison
terms, and corruption charges have reached to the very top of the
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