New Orleans Cops Sentenced For Katrina Killings


Five New Orleans former police officers have received harsh sentences from a federal judge for their role in the infamous killing of two civilians and subsequent cover up during the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

In what became known as the Danziger Bridge Shootings, six people were shot in all. The officers had opened fire on an unarmed family, killing 17-year-old James Brissette and wounding four others. Minutes later, Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old man with severe mental disabilities, was shot in the back as he was trying to flee the scene.

They received prison terms ranging from six to 65 years.

The murders had been covered up, with a number of other officers assisting. Louisiana had refused to prosecute the men, so some of the convictions were for civil rights violations.

U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt also accused prosecutors of cutting overly lenient plea deals with five other officers who cooperated with the civil rights investigation. The former officers pleaded guilty to helping cover up the shooting and are already serving prison terms ranging from three to eight years.

There have been a string of cases of officers convicted for killings or facing trial for murder following the hurricane.

Last year, two officers were found guilty in the beating to death of Raymond Robair, a handyman. In December 2011, a jury convicted three officers and acquitted two in killing 31-year-old Henry Glover and burning his body.

While many officers bravely helped citizens, 200 fled the city before Katrina hit and there have been extensive reports of some officers engaging in looting.

Last year, the Justice Department concluded that the New Orleans police department had engaged in patterns of misconduct. Their findings range from excessive use of force to poor training, lack of supervision and illegal profiling.

There have also been accusations of violence and torture by private security firms in the Hurricane’s wake, although no charges have been laid in those cases.

Several civilians — almost all of them African American — were killed under suspicious circumstances in incidents involving police and white vigilantes. For years, family members and advocates called for official investigations and were rebuffed. Activists even brought charges to the United Nations, filing a shadow report in February 2008 with the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Geneva.

With the most notorious Danzinger Bridge case, it wasn’t until 2008 (three years after the event) when journalist AC Thompson, a staff reporter for ProPublica, became interested and justice came within sight. The following year the Justice Department took on the case and is now engaged in one of the most wide-ranging investigations of a police department in recent US history. Dozens of officers are facing lengthy prison terms, and corruption charges have reached to the very top of the department.

Watch PBS FRONTLINE: Behind the Danziger Bridge Shooting:


Related stories:

Cops Charged By DOJ in Post-Katrina Murders. Could Justice For Oscar Grant Be Next?

Rush Limbaugh Says Obama Wanted Another Katrina

Justice Department: Evidence of Systematic Failures and Misconduct by New Orleans Police


Photo credit: Susan Bartholemew, whose arm was shot off by New Orleans police; AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

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Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin3 years ago

Hope those murderous cops get hell behind bars!

Kimberlee W.
Kimberlee W.3 years ago

With the latest Supreme Court decision, expect more of this with less REporting of it.
Our right to be secure in our own persons is now gone. A lot of people lost that part of the ruling. That Innocent man, Lee, was abused by the system, humiliated, intimidated, and then told he couldn't sue the people who did this to him because they only fulfilling their duties.

If this had happened next year, there wouldn't have even been a trial except that a couple of the victims survived. And even then, it would be said that the police had a right and duty to shoot to kill at fleeing "suspects".

Am I the only one bothered that no legislator has decried that ruling?

Not getting over it!

Lynn C.
Lynn C.3 years ago

What a farce our 'justice' system and the police departments are in this country. All these years...

Tom Sullivan
Tom C Sullivan3 years ago

Took way to long. Makes one wonder why?. It is to the point you can't trust the police or the goverment, mt heart goes out to the family's

Magdalen B.
Magdalen B.3 years ago

Disgraceful conduct and delays.
It must be very bitter for the good police.

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle3 years ago

Katrina was in 2005!!! Justice sometimes comes, but oh how those families had to wait. So sorry for your pain.

David H.
David H.3 years ago

I cannot but stand stupified and numb at this, which I must confess I was unaware of in the UK before now. It really does beggar belief that police officers in the US can behave like self appointed vigilantes and murder people, and manage to escape justice for 7 years with the official complicity of the Louisiana state government.

What saddens me is that the comments from US citizens are all expressing thanks that some justice is being meted out after so long, none express the shock and horror that we in the UK would feel were anything remotely similar to happen here. Despite the anger I can see, there is no in-built faith that such things don't happen; and there is no shock that they have.

Bambi G.
Bambi G.3 years ago

Justice yes, will it bring them back NO. My prayers go out to their families & friends. Thanks for sharing.

Janna O.
Janna O.3 years ago

Good to see a measure of justice finally.

Ellen Mccabe
ellen m.3 years ago

This was justice delayed for far to long.