On August 5, in the culmination of a federal criminal trial, a jury convicted five police officers of various civil rights violations, but not murder, for having shot into a crowd of civilians fleeing New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, killing two individuals and injuring four more. [USHR Network] The Department of Justice, which prosecuted the four officers involved in the shooting and their supervisor who concluded that the shooting was justified and that surviving victims should be prosecuted, summarized the facts as follows:
The evidence at trial established that officers Bowen, Gisevius, Faulcon and Villavaso opened fire on an unarmed family on the east side of the bridge, killing 17-year-old James Brissette, and wounding Susan Bartholomew, 38; Leonard Bartholomew III, 44; the Bartholomew’s daughter, Lesha, 17; and the Bartholomew’s nephew, Jose Holmes, 19. The Bartholomew’s 14-year-old son ran away from the shooting and was fired at, but was not injured.
According to testimony, the second shooting occurred minutes later on the west side of the bridge, where officers shot at brothers Lance and Ronald Madison, killing Ronald, a 40-year-old man with severe mental disabilities. Witnesses testified that Faulcon shot Ronald Madison in the back as Ronald Madison ran away. Furthermore, Bowen stomped and kicked Ronald Madison while wounded, but not yet dead. Ronald Madison later died at the scene.
The officers were convicted on twenty-five counts and will be sentenced on December 14, 2011. They face the possibility of multiple life sentences. An additional five former New Orleans police officers pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges for their role in covering up the shootings; they testified in the trial of the officers who pleaded not guilty. [DOJ]