New Or­leans po­lice charged in civil­ian killings in Ka­t­rina af­ter­math

Austin American-Statesman - - WORLD & NATION - By Camp­bell Robert­son

NEW OR­LEANS — In a case that rocked a city al­ready torn by the hor­rors of Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina, four cur­rent and two for­mer New Or­leans po­lice of­fi­cers have been charged in con­nec­tion with the killing of un­armed civil­ians on the Danziger Bridge in the chaotic days af­ter the storm, fed­eral law en­force­ment of­fi­cials said Tues­day.

Four of the men — for­mer of­fi­cer Robert Faulcon, Sgt. Ken­neth Bowen, Sgt. Robert Gi­se­vius and of­fi­cer An­thony Villavaso — were charged with fed­eral civil rights vi­o­la­tions in the killing of 17-year-old James Bris­sette and the wound­ing of four oth­ers, all mem­bers of the same fam­ily, when the of­fi­cers opened fire on a group try­ing to cross the bridge in east­ern New Or­leans.

In ad­di­tion, Faulcon, whom FBI agents ar- rested Tues­day morn­ing in the Texas Pan­han­dle town of Fresno, was charged with shoot­ing Ron­ald Madi­son, a 40-year-old man with se­vere mental dis­abil­i­ties, in the back as he tried to flee. Bowen also is charged with stomp­ing and kick­ing Madi­son while he was ly­ing on the ground, wounded but still alive.

All four of the men could face the death penalty.

Sgt. Arthur Kauf­man and re­tired Sgt. Ger­ard Dugue, who helped in­ves­ti­gate the shoot­ings, were charged with par­tic­i­pat­ing in a cover-up to make it ap­pear that the shoot­ings were jus­ti­fied. Charges against them in­clude ob­struc­tion of jus­tice.

Five for­mer New Or­leans po­lice of­fi­cers have pleaded guilty to help­ing cover up the shoot­ings and await sen­tenc­ing.

The Danziger case be­came a sym­bol of the vi­o­lence, dis­or­der and of­fi­cial in­ep­ti­tude in Ka­t­rina’s wake. It shined a spot­light on New Or­leans’ long-trou­bled po­lice depart­ment, the tar­get of a ma­jor cor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tion in the 1990s.

In May, at the for­mal in­vi­ta­tion of the city’s newly in­au­gu­rated mayor, Mitch Lan­drieu, U.S. Jus­tice Depart­ment of­fi­cials said they were con­duct­ing a full re­view of the po­lice depart­ment, a process that of­ten ends in a con­sent de­cree, a legally bind­ing agree­ment for sys­temic re­form.

U.S. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Eric Holder, who spoke at a news con­fer­ence Tues­day in New Or­leans, put the in­dict­ments in that con­text.

“It will take more than this in­ves­ti­ga­tion to re­new the New Or­leans Po­lice Depart­ment and to al­low it to thrive,” Holder said.

“We want to look at this in a holis­tic way,” he added later.

The four men who were charged with killing Bris­sette are in cus­tody, fed­eral of­fi­cials said. Of­fi­cials also said the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was con­tin­u­ing. The three of­fi­cers have been sus­pended with­out pay, a po­lice spokesman said.

The two other men charged Tues­day — Kauf­man and Dugue — re­ceived sum­monses, a spokes­woman for the U.S. At­tor­ney’s Of­fice for the East­ern District of Louisiana said.

“We’ve known it was com­ing for at least six months and sus­pected it was com­ing for a year,” said Frank DeSalvo, a lawyer for Bowen. “It’s not a shock. We’re ready.”

Eric Hessler, a lawyer who rep­re­sents Gi­se­vius, said fed­eral of­fi­cials should have con­sid­ered the chaos that the po­lice were op­er­at­ing in dur­ing the first few days af­ter Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina.

“The fed­eral govern­ment has clearly for­got­ten or cho­sen to ig­nore the cir­cum­stances po­lice of­fi­cers were work­ing un­der,” Hessler said.

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