Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the five former officers had been sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Kurt Engelhardt for their roles in the shooting of six innocent people after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in August 2005.
Officer Robert Faulcon was sentenced to 65 years in prison. Sgt. Kenneth Bowen and Sgt. Robert Gisevius each received 40 year sentences and Officer Anthony Villavaso was sentenced to 38 years in jail.
Sgt. Arthur "Archie" Kaufman, who was not involved in the shootings but was a supervisor and played a major role in the following cover-up, received a six year jail term.
After the sentences were handed down, Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Department of the U.S. Department of Justice, said
We hope that today's sentences give a measure of peace and closure to the victims of this terrible shooting, who have suffered unspeakable pain and who have waited so patiently for justice to be done. The officers who shot innocent people on the bridge and then went to great lengths to cover up their own crimes have been finally held accountable for their actions. As a result of today's sentencing, the city of New Orleans can take another step forward.
The five were found guilty of civil rights violations after a six week jury trial ended last August. Federal charges were brought in 2009 after charges brought by the New Orleans District Attorney's office were thrown out due to prosecutorial misconduct.
On Sept. 4, 2005, days after the devastating hurricane hit, police received a call that police officers were being fired upon near Danziger Bridge. Police responded and, according to witnesses, began firing at innocent unarmed civilians who were walking across the bridge. The officers involved in the shooting claimed they were shot at and the people on the bridge had weapons in their hands.
Susan Bartholomew was seriously injured; one of her arms was blown off by an assault rifle. Leonard Bartholomew was shot in the leg and head while Lesha Bartholomew was shot in both legs and the stomach. Jose Holmes was shot multiple times in the face, neck, arms, hand, and stomach. And a 14-year-old boy was fired at but managed to escape uninjured.
James Brissette was shot multiple times and died on the bridge.
According to the evidence at trial, officers then went to the other side of the bridge and chased brothers Lance and Ronald Madison. Ronald Madison, who was physically and mentally disabled, was shot in the back and killed by Faulcon. His body was found at the base of the bridge.
Five other former cops pled guilty before trial and received sentences of between three and eight years.
During the sentencing hearing, the victims were allowed to make statements. Reuters
quotes Lance Madison, who spent three weeks in jail on trumped up charges after a weapon was planted on him, saying,
I truly don't know why I am alive today. Those officers shot Ronald down like he was an animal.
The Boston Herald
quoted Holmes as saying through his lawyer,
For you to have shot an unarmed innocent person should make you feel guilty and ashamed. I have you to blame for all my scars, depression and embarrassment of having to wear a colostomy bag...But when it's all said and done I'm a loving person, so I have to forgive you for what you've done to me because God forbids me to have hatred in my heart.
Another former New Orleans detective is scheduled to go to trial next month on charges he was involved in the cover-up.