Jury Convicts NOLA Police of Cover-Up in Post-Katrina Shootings
A New Orleans jury has convicted five former police officers of charges related to their unjustified shooting of six unarmed people and attempt to create a cover-up in two incidents on the Danziger Bridge in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Two of the shooting victims died, including a 17 year old and a 40 year old man who was severely mentally disabled. One woman lost her arm.
Four of the shooting victims were from one family. None were armed and they were crossing the bridge looking for food when police opened fire. Not long after, police shot at two unarmed brothers who were also walking on the bridge looking for food. The 40 year old disabled brother was shot seven times in the back.
At trial, lawyers for the cops claimed they were fired on first and feared for their lives. Not so. One of the cops, Retired Sgt. Arthur Kaufman, who was assigned to investigate the shootings, staged the cover-up for the other cops, using his own gun. He was also convicted today. [More...]
Kaufman claimed to have found a gun - which he had actually taken from his own home - on the bridge the day after the shooting. He also invented fictional witnesses and witness statements to justify the officer's actions. He faces a maximum sentence of 120 years in prison.
Kaufman was convicted of ten counts related to the cover-up, "including conspiracy, obstruction of justice, fabricating witnesses, falsifying victim statements, misleading federal investigators and falsifying evidence."
Even though none of the cops were convicted of murder, the cover-up and civil rights counts on which they were convicted carry hefty sentences. Some face multiple life sentences. Reuters reports that had they been convicted of murder, they would have faced mandatory life sentences without parole.
This is not the only case. In all, more than 20 NOLA officers have been charged in corruption and brutality cases. Here's a summary of the cases. In March, the Justice Department issued a report on the systemic abuses of the NOLA police:
Among the findings are that the police department has used excessive force, made unconstitutional stops and searches, and illegally profiled people based on race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. The investigation also found a number of practices that contributed to the illegal conduct, including failed systems for recruiting and promoting officers, poor training and lack of supervision, among others.
Reuters also reports:
The federal government spent nearly three years mounting its case against the officers after state indictments related to the incident were quashed in 2008 due to errors by the district attorney's office.
Here's the DOJ's 2010 press release on the Indictment. Here are some details of the state's unsuccessful 2006 case.
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