Five men who were police officers during Hurricane Katrina have been convicted of deprivation of rights and other civil rights violations associated to the deadly shootings on Danziger Bridge in New Orleans.
It took jurors three days to reach a verdict in the case stemming from shooting six days after New Orleans was covered in water from Hurricane Katrina and the levees breaking. On September 4, 2005 officers opened fire on James Brissette, 17, Ronald Madison, 40, and several others. Brissette and Madison were killed as a result of the shooting.
Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, Robert Faulcon and Anthony Villavasoare and former detective Arthur Kaufman had been charged in the shootings.
On that fateful night Ronald Madison and his brother Lance were crossing Danziger Bridge to find safe haven. They had no idea that the police had been in gun battles in the area with loiters. There on the bridge they were placed in a nightmare that days of mere survival in the flooded town had formed. Police, weary and scared, were in flight or fight mode choosing to fight even when there was no fight to be had.
A call had come over the radio saying that police were being shot at on the bridge. A group of officers raced to the scene in a Budget rental truck. As they neared the scene Officer Michael Hunter fired warning shots out the window of the truck. A truck was stopped on the bridge containing the Bratholomew family. With no questions asked the police begun to fire upon the truck. In the aftermath James Brissette laid dead and Jose Holmes, 19; his aunt, Susan Bartholomew, his uncle, Leonard Bartholomew III, and a teenage cousin, Lesha Bartholomew were wounded.
The rampage was not over.
According to Lance Madison, who was arrested on false charges, he and his brother were fired upon by the police as they ran for safety after hearing the gun battle behind them. Ronald Madison was hit but continued to flee hoping to survive running with his hands in the air. Ronald died when Faulcon fired a shot into the fleeing man's back.
The actions of the police that night became a web of lies and cover-ups.
Charges were dismissed against the five men convicted today in 2008 when the state case fell about. When the feds took over the case plea deals started to fly as each wanted leniency when their case went to court.
"They thought because of Katrina no one was watching," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Theodore Carter is quoted in NOLA.com. "They thought they could do what they wanted to do and there wouldn't be any consequences."
While the five were convicted today there was no murder charge. Instead they were convicted of violating civil rights.