New Or­leans set­tles po­lice shoot­ing suits

Cops cov­ered up post-Ka­t­rina killing

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY JANET MCCONNAUGHEY AND MICHAEL KUNZELMAN

NEW OR­LEANS | The mayor of New Or­leans on Mon­day an­nounced the city has reached set­tle­ments to­tal­ing $13.3 mil­lion in law­suits over deadly po­lice shoot­ings af­ter Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina and a fa­tal beat­ing just be­fore the 2005 storm, and he apol­o­gized to the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies on be­half of the city.

“I am hop­ing that in some sense the strength of these fam­i­lies will help the city find peace in our fu­ture,” Mayor Mitch Lan­drieu said at an af­ter­noon news con­fer­ence at­tended by some rel­a­tives of the vic­tims.

Mr. Lan­drieu said the set­tle­ments are with 17 plain­tiffs.

Sher­rel John­son, the mother of 17-yearold James Bris­sette, who died in the Sept. 4, 2005, shoot­ings on the Danziger Bridge, was among the vic­tims’ rel­a­tives on hand for Mr. Lan­drieu’s an­nounce­ment. She said she “whole­heart­edly” ac­cepts his apol­ogy.

“Since that time, it has been an aw­ful long and rough road. But me and my fam­ily got through it,” she said. Later, she added, “Now this is clo­sure for me, and I can go for­ward … be­cause I know the old New Or­leans does not ex­ist any­more.”

A to­tal of 20 cur­rent or for­mer New Or­leans po­lice of­fi­cers were charged in a series of Jus­tice Depart­ment civil rights in­ves­ti­ga­tions fol­low­ing the Au­gust 2005 storm. All but one of the cases cen­tered on al­leged po­lice mis­con­duct dur­ing the chaos that gripped the flooded city.

Eleven of­fi­cers pleaded guilty to charges re­lated to deadly shoot­ings on a bridge less than a week af­ter Ka­t­rina’s land­fall. Of­fi­cers shot and killed two un­armed peo­ple and wounded four oth­ers on the Danziger Bridge be­fore en­gag­ing in a cover-up that in­cluded a planted gun, fab­ri­cated wit­nesses and fal­si­fied re­ports.

Bris­sette and 40-year-old Ron­ald Madison, a men­tally dis­abled man, died in the Sept. 4, 2005, bridge shoot­ings. Lance Madison, Ron­ald’s brother, was on the bridge that day and ini­tially was ar­rested af­ter be­ing falsely ac­cused of shoot­ing at of­fi­cers.

A fed­eral judge who presided over a trial for five of the of­fi­cers charged in the bridge shoot­ing threw out their con­vic­tions in 2013. U.S. District Judge Kurt En­gel­hardt said at least three govern­ment at­tor­neys posted anony­mous com­ments on a New Or­leans news­pa­per’s web­site, cre­at­ing a “car­ni­val at­mos­phere” that “dis­torted and per­verted” jus­tice in the case.

Judge En­gel­hardt or­dered a new trial for the five of­fi­cers, who ul­ti­mately pleaded guilty in April. Law­suits over the bridge shoot­ings had been placed on hold while the crim­i­nal cases were pend­ing.

Five other of­fi­cers were tried on charges re­lated to the death of 31-year-old Henry Glover, who was fa­tally shot out­side a strip mall be­fore his body was burned.

For­mer of­fi­cer Gregory McRae, who burned Glover’s body in a car, is the only of­fi­cer whose con­vic­tion in the case still stands. McRae is serv­ing a prison sen­tence of more than 11 years.

The of­fi­cer who fa­tally shot Glover was con­victed of man­slaugh­ter but was later ac­quit­ted by an­other jury af­ter an ap­peals court awarded him a new trial.

Two for­mer New Or­leans po­lice of­fi­cers were con­victed of charges stem­ming from the fa­tal beat­ing of Ray­mond Robair, a 48-year-old handy­man who died less than a month be­fore Ka­t­rina struck.

For­mer of­fi­cer Melvin Wil­liams was sen­tenced to more than 21 years in prison for kick­ing Robair and beat­ing him with a ba­ton. An­other for­mer of­fi­cer, Matthew Dean Moore, was sen­tenced to more than five years in prison for sub­mit­ting a false re­port and ly­ing to the FBI about the en­counter.

Robair’s rel­a­tives sued the city and for­mer po­lice su­per­in­ten­dent Ed­die Com­pass.

LaShonda En­clade, Robair’s daugh­ter, at­tended the news con­fer­ence. She said she for­gives the city, but for­giv­ing the of­fi­cers in­volved is more dif­fi­cult.

“The word for­give is a very, very, hard word. … I’m not go­ing to say I can ever for­give them. It’s some­thing to be worked on,” she said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

New Or­leans Mayor Mitch Lan­drieu an­nounced a $13.3 mil­lion set­tle­ment in the law­suits sur­round­ing po­lice shoot­ings and cover-ups in the deaths of vic­tims in the wake of Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina in 2005. Mr. Lan­drieu also apol­o­gized to the fam­i­lies of the vic­tims.

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