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4 Officers Charged in Post-Katrina Shootings

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By Jason Beahm on July 14, 2010 10:13 AM

Four police officers and two supervisors have been indicted in the post-Katrina shooting deaths of civilians on New Orleans' Danziger Bridge. The federal cases alleging federal civil rights violations involve two civilians killed and four others who were wounded on September 4, 2005, six days after hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast.

Three New Orleans police officers, Kenneth Bowen, Anthony Villavaso and former officer, Robert Giseviusare, are in FBI custody. State prosecutors already had charged the 4 officers as well as filed charges against several additional police officers, but in 2008 a judge quashed indictments against officers Bowen, Gisevius, Villavaso and Faulcon Jr. They were all facing first-degree murder and attempted murder charges. The judge also threw out charges against officers Hunter Jr., Barrios and Hills.

The charges come from two incidents and an admitted cover up. James Brissette, 19, was killed and four people were wounded on the east side of the Danziger Bridge. Ronald Madison, 40, was killed on the bridge's west side. Four former police officers pleaded guilty to charges relating to the shooting and a coverup of the incident.

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The police maintained they fired at the civilians in self-defense, after the civilian fired at police, the U.S. Justice Department said in March, CNN reports.

However ... Lohman pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiring with other officers to cover up ... defendant Lehrmann admitted that he also knew of and participated in a conspiracy to obstruct justice in the investigation of the shooting.

The current charges allege that offices deprived citizens of rights under color of law and used a weapon during the commission of a crime. They could face the death penalty if convicted.

As our investigation of the Danziger Bridge incident shows, the Justice Department will vigorously pursue anyone who allegedly violated the law, said Attorney General Holder. Put simply, we will not tolerate wrongdoing by those who have sworn to protect the public.

In the first of the post-Katrina shootings, on the east side of the bridge, one person -- later identified as James Brissette, 19 -- was killed and four people were wounded, prosecutors said. In a second shooting, on the bridge's west side, Ronald Madison, 40, a severely disabled man, was killed. Madison's brother was arrested but later released without indictment, authorities said.

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