The five police and former police charged with being involved in the deadly shootings on a New Orleans bridge shortly after Hurricane Katrina were found guilty by a federal jury of civil rights violations on Friday, but not guilty of murder.
WWLTV News reported that out of those found guilty of the shootings and cover-up were defendants Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, Robert Faulcon and Anthony Villavaso.
Sergeant Arthur Kaufman was found guilty of only the cover up.
However, none of the shootings which killed two were considered murder by the jury.
According to prosecutors the police shot six unarmed people, killing two, on the Danziger Bridge less than a week after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005. The officers involved were charged with participating in a cover-up to make the shootings appear justified.
The New Orleans police department has gained a reputation among the media for corruption and brutality, and commentators were saying that this trial was a high profile test to see if the Justice Department was able to start cleaning up this problem.
“It was unreasonable for these officers to fire even one shot, let alone dozens,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Theodore Carter, who stated in closing arguments on Tuesday that police had no justification for shooting unarmed, defenseless people trying to cross the bridge in search of food in the Katrina aftermath.
However, the defense claimed that the police were shot at before they returned fire.
“None of these people intentionally decided to go out there and cause people harm,” said Timothy Meche, Villavaso’s lawyer. He said they did their best, operating under “terrible, horrible circumstances” after the hurricane.
Faulcon was the only defendant to testify saying he was “paralyzed with fear” when he shot and killed Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old disabled man. He didn’t deny shooting the unarmed man in the back, but defended his actions by stating that he believed Madison was armed and posed a serious threat at the time of the shooting.
Kaufmann, who was found guilty of only the cover-up, was accused by prosecutors of taking a gun from his home and turning it in as evidence claiming it belonged to Ronald Madison’s brother Lance who was also present the day of the incident.
Prosecutors also accused Kaufmann of fabricating two non-existent witnesses to the shootings.