Eleven years later, four New Orleans police officers are finally being sentenced for shooting six people in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. A fifth officer who helped in covering it up was also sentenced.
NOLA.com reports that the officers pleaded guilty to shooting and killing six people on the Danziger Bridge in 2005 as people were attempting to flee New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit. They have been jailed since originally being convicted in 2011.
The officers, Kenneth Bowen, Robert Faulcon Jr., Robert Gisevius and Anthony Villavaso were all given sentences ranging between three and 12 years. The officers were previously given sentences that were 30-years plus. But those sentences were over turned in 2013 after a new trial was ordered due to “grotesque prosecutorial misconduct.” That conduct included deputies in the U.S. Attorney’s office leaving insulting remarks about the officers in the NOLA.com comments section.
A fifth officer, Arthur Kaufman, was sentenced to six years for being involved in the cover-up.
“Today is the first day of the rest of my life. I finally got what I wanted: Someone confessed, ‘I did it,'” said Sherrell Johnson, at a press conference. He 17-year-old son James Brissette was one of the people killed in the bridge shootings.
According to NOLA.com:
The shootings occurred on the bridge that connects Chef Menteur Highway between Gentilly and New Orleans East, over the Industrial Canal, six days after Katrina made landfall. The officers maintained that they rushed to the bridge after what turned out to be an unsubstantiated police radio report that a police convoy on the nearby I-10 high rise had taken gunfire from the direction of the Danziger Bridge.
About nine officers arrived on a Budget truck they had commandeered, later claiming they had taken fire as they approached the bridge. Investigators determined Brissette was attempting to cross from the eastern side of the bridge with members of his uncle’s family, who were pushing a grocery cart away in search of supplies. Several officers jumped off the truck and began firing on the group, who took cover behind a concrete barrier. Trial testimony indicated some officers stood over the barrier and fired on the unarmed civilians.