New Orleans Cops Guilty of Conspiracy in Katrina Shooting

Officers are convicted on all federal counts of violating civil rights

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A federal jury in New Orleans on Friday handed down all guilty verdicts on 25 counts in the infamous Danziger Bridge shooting case, in which current and former New Orleans police officers were charged with civil rights violations, conspiracy charges, and weapons charges in the shooting deaths of unarmed civilians following Hurricane Katrina. In the infamous debacle in the chaotic days after the 2005 storm, police allegedly opened fire on a group that was crossing the bridge out of town, then lied after the fact, saying they had been fired upon and planting a gun on one of the victims. A 40-year-old man and 17-year-old boy were killed, and four others were injured.

The federal case follows an unsuccessful murder prosecution against seven officers, which fell apart due to prosecutorial misconduct. The New Orleans Times Picayune has the background on those being convicted today:

Four of the officers on trial -- Sgts. Ken Bowen and Robert Gisevius, and former officers Anthony Villavaso and Robert Faulcon -- acknowledged taking part in the shootings on Sept. 4, 2005. The officers were responding to a distress call from a fellow officer, and they maintained they were either taking fire on the bridge, or had good reason to believe they were under fire. Prosecutors portrayed the shootings as an act of murder.

The fifth officer on trial, retired Sgt. Arthur "Archie" Kaufman, was accused of helping to oversee a massive cover-up of the events on the bridge, one that persisted for years. Kaufman planted a gun in the case's evidence file, according to testimony in the trial, and prosecutors said he made up two witnesses who he then quoted saying the shootings were justified.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.