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Five New Orleans Cops Sentenced For Katrina Shootings

'Danziger Bridge' shootings symbolized culture of lawlessness by NOLA police

- Common Dreams staff

Five New Orleans police officers were sentenced on Wednesday to between six and 65 years in prison for their roles in the shootings of unarmed residents in the aftermath of Hurricane Kartina in 2005. The 'Danziger Bridge' shootings came to symbolize a culture of lawlessness by the New Orleans Police Department and resulted in the death of two civilians and left four wounded.

The officers sentenced Wednesday are among 20 policemen charged over killings, assaults and the fabrication of evidence during Katrina. (Photograph: Lucas Jackson/Reuters) Robert Faulcon Jr., who was convicted of shooting the two civilians who died as well as other crimes, received the stiffest sentence, according to Pro Publica, who covered the Danzinger Bridge incident closely and also documented widespread criminal activity by the NOLA police department during and following Katrina. The lightest sentence went to former Sgt. Arthur “Archie” Kaufman, a police investigator who helped orchestrate the department’s cover-up by crafting a false report and planting a gun at the scene. He wasn’t involved in the actual shootings, however.

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The Guardian reports:Cars pass over the Danziger Bridge on July 14, 2010 in New Orleans, La. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Two officers – sergeants Kenneth Bowen and Robert Gisevius – were sentenced on Wednesday to 40 years in prison years for killing 17-year-old James Brissette and wounding four other people. Another officer, Anthony Villavaso, received 38 years for the same crime.

The court heard that Bowen used an unauthorised AK-47 to spray bullets at a group of civilians hiding behind a concrete barrier. Gisevius used a military-style M-4 rifle to shoot at unarmed people. Villavaso fired at least nine bullets at civilians with his AK-47.

A fourth policeman, Robert Faulcon, was sentenced to 65 years for killing Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old man with learning difficulties, by shooting him in the back with a shotgun. Madison's brother, Lance, was then arrested and accused of attempted murder after the police tried to cover up their actions by falsely accusing him of shooting at officers on the bridge. He was held in jail for three weeks before a court freed him.

Lance Madison told the court immediately before the sentencing that his brother was "gunned down and killed without mercy". He said to the convicted officers: "You are the reason I can no longer trust law enforcement."

The four officers were also convicted of an extensive coverup along with a former sergeant, Arthur Kaufman, who was not present when the shootings occurred. The coverup included the officers falsely claiming that they responded to a report of a fellow policeman having been shot and that at least four people opened fire on them when they arrived at the bridge. Kaufman will serve six years in prison.

Sherrel Johnson, Brissette's mother, repeated several times in an emotional statement directed at her son's killers: "I can't for the life of me understand what they were thinking." [...]

The officers sentenced on Wednesday are among 20 policemen charged over killings, assaults and the fabrication of evidence during Katrina. Some have received lengthy sentences in earlier trials. Others pleaded guilty and gave evidence against former colleagues.

In a separate trial last year, three officers were convicted last year over the shooting a young black man and then burning his body in a car.

David Warren was sentenced to at least 25 years in prison for killing Henry Glover, 31. Another officer, Greg McRae, was sent to prison for 17 years for setting fire to a car with Glover's body in it in an apparent attempt to cover up Warren's crime.

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Note: This article was updated on 4/5 to add some additional background material

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