The Justice Department has charged four New Orleans police officers with opening fire on unarmed civilians in the days after Hurricane Katrina, killing two and wounding four. The DOJ has also charged them, and two other officers, with conspiracy relating to the resulting cover-up.
U.S. Attorney Jim Letten and Attorney General Eric Holder announced the charges in an afternoon press conference today, five years after the shootings on the Danziger Bridge in New Orleans.
Four police officers — Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, Robert Faulcon and Anthony Villavaso — are being charged with civil rights violations in connection with the shootings. If convicted, they could face life imprisonment or the death penalty.
The two others, Archie Kaufman and Gerard Dugue, are charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice. Kaufman and Dugue were the investigators in the original case, and are accused of falsifying reports and false prosecution.
Five other police officers and one civilian have already pleaded guilty to charges related to the cover-up. The four accused of the shooting had been charged with murder in connection with the incident, but the case was thrown out in 2008.
On Sept. 4, 2005, seven NOPD officers, including the four charged today in the shootings, rode to the Danziger Bridge after getting reports of officers under fire. There, they encountered a family on their way to the supermarket for supplies. For unknown reasons, the officers allegedly opened fire, killing 17-year-old James Brissette and wounding others.
The officers then allegedly drove to the other side of the bridge, where they found another group of people and again opened fire. Ronald Madison, 40, who was mentally disabled, was shot in the back and killed.
Faulcon is the one who allegedly shot Madison, according to the indictment. Bowen is accused of kicking Madison as he lay on the ground dying.
The indictment makes no mention of a possible motive.
All six are accused of trying to cover up the officers’ role in the shooting by falsifying reports and fabricating witnesses. They’re also charged with violating the civil rights of two more civilians by claiming they had shot at the officers, provoking the shootings.
Of the six, four still serve on the force: Bowen, Gisevius, Villavaso and Kaufman.
Letten said the investigation into what happened that day is ongoing. He would not say whether the government would seek the death penalty.
Read more of TPMmuckraker’s coverage of the case here.
The full indictment: