A former New Orleans police officer has given authorities a shocking account of the killing by police of two unarmed civilians and the wounding of four others on Danziger Bridge in post-Katrina New Orleans.
The account of the September 2005 incident by former Officer Michael Hunter, 33, who pleaded guilty yesterday to charges associated with the coverup of the shootings, is contained in a court filing that you can read in full below.
In this excerpt, Hunter describes another officer shooting Ronald Madison, 40, a mentally disabled man, in the back with a shotgun. A second officer then beat the dying man on the ground, according to Hunter.
At this point in Hunter’s account, he and an Officer A had gotten into an unmarked Louisiana State Police car after an initial round of shootings. The car pursued three black men running away near the bottom of the bridge:
“As the unmarked [Louisiana State Police] car pulled to a stop, Officer A, without warning, fired a shotgun at Ronald Madison’s back as Madison ran away in the direction of the motel. Defendant HUNTER immediately got out of the car and went to where Ronald Madison was lying on the ground. Ronald Madison was alive, but appeared to be dying. He was lying on his side, with two officers standing nearby. Neither defendant HUNTER nor either of the other officers searched Ronald Madison for a weapon.
As Ronald Madison lay dying on the pavement, Sergeant A ran down the bridge toward Ronald and asked an officer if Ronald was “one of them.” When the officer replied in the affirmative, Sergeant A began kicking or stomping Ronald Madison repeatedly with hisfoot. Sergeant A appeared to be striking Madison’s torso with as much force as he could muster. Defendant HUNTER charged toward Sergeant A, who backed off from Madison. As defendant HUNTER walked away, an officer standing nearby appeared shocked that HUNTER had confronted Sergeant A.”
(Hunter, an officer, would have been outranked by the sergeant he confronted.)
In the new account of the incident, Hunter admits to firing a handgun “numerous times” at fleeing, unarmed civilians who did not present a threat, but “he did not believe that he struck them.” The account makes clear that officers did not see weapons or threatening acts by any of the civilians, but doesn’t speculate as to the their motives for opening fire.
At one point earlier in the account, Sergeant A, identified in the media as Sgt. Kenneth Bowen, “leaned over the concrete barrier, held out his assault rifle, and, in a sweeping motion, fired repeatedly at the civilians lying wounded on the ground.”
Hunter was not charged with crimes relating to the incident itself, but rather the subsequent cover-up, which involved planting a gun at the scene to bolster the officers’ story that they were threatened. Hunter pleaded to conspiring to obstruct justice and misprision of a felony. He is the third former officer in the past month and a half to plead guilty to charges related to the coverup.
Remarkably, Hunter has remained on the force since the post-Katrina shootings, though he was assigned to a desk job. He only resigned at the end of last month.
The new development has raised speculation that federal prosecutors may be looking to bring charges against officers for the shooting itself, not merely the coverup. Criminal charges for murder were brought at the state level but thrown out in 2008. The Times-Picayune has more.
Here is the full account of what happened according to Hunter:
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. MICHAEL HUNTER
* * *
If this matter were to go to trial, the Government would prove beyond a reasonable doubt, through the introduction of competent testimony and admissible tangible exhibits, the following facts to support the allegations in the two-count Bill of Information now pending against defendant MICHAEL HUNTER, charging the defendant with one count of conspiring to obstruct justice in the investigation of the Danziger Bridge shooting that occurred on September 4, 2005, and with one count of misprision of a felony. Specifically, Count One charges that defendant HUNTER conspired with other New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) Officers, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 371, to commit the following offenses against the United States:
a. to knowingly falsify and make a false entry in a document with intent to impede, obstruct, and influence the investigation and proper administration of a matter within federal jurisdiction, and in relation to and in contemplation of such a matter, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1519; and
b. to knowingly engage in misleading conduct toward another person with intent to hinder, delay, and prevent the communication of truthful information to a federal law enforcement officer and judge of information relating to the commission and possible commission of a federal offense, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1512(b)(3); All in violation of 18 U.S.C. 371.
Count Two charges defendant HUNTER with misprision of a felony, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 4, for concealing crimes he witnessed on the Danziger Bridge. From September 4, 2005, until March 2010, the defendant knew that officers with NOPD had engaged in deprivations of rights under color of law, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 242, and that these deprivations of rights had resulted in bodily injury and death to civilians on the Danziger Bridge in New Orleans on September 4, 2005. The defendant concealed these crimes and provided false statements to investigators; All in violation of 18 U.S.C. 4.
The Shootings and the Start of the Conspiracy
Top Stories From TPM