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It was announced by the Justice Department yesterday, April 4th, that the five officers from the New Orleans Police Department that were involved in the shootings on the Danziger Bridge shortly after hurricane Katrina were sentenced for their roles in the cover-up that occurred after the incident.
Long prison sentences were imposed by Judge Kurt Englehardt in United States District Court. Four of the officers were sentenced as follows:
Sergeant Arthur “Archie” Kaufman was the fifth officer to be sentenced in the case. Kaufman was not involved in the shooting. But, he did help the other officers cover up the shooting incident. For that, Kaufman recieved a sentence of six years in prison.
Bowen, Gisevius, Faulcon and Villavaso were convicted in connection with the shootings of multiple victims, including 17-year-old James Brissette and 40-year-old Ronald Madison, who died on the bridge. Those four officers and a supervisor, Kaufman, also were convicted of obstructing justice during the subsequent investigations.
Five other officers pleaded guilty before trial and cooperated with the federal investigation. Those officers testified at trial about the unjustified shooting on the bridge and about a massive police cover-up that followed.
A group of officers, including Sergeant Bowen, Sergeant Gisevius, Officer Faulcon and Officer Villavaso, opened fire on an unarmed family walking on the east side of Danziger Bridge using assault rifles and a shotgun on September 4th, 2005.
Police gunfire struck the victims multiple times, wounding a New Orleans couple, their daughter, and their nephew, and killing family-friend James Brissette. Susan Bartholomew, 38, suffered serious injuries, including the loss of her right arm, which was shot off by a high-powered assault rifle; Leonard Bartholomew III, 44, was shot in the leg and the back of the head, but survived his wounds; Lesha Bartholomew, 17, was shot in both legs and in the stomach; and the Bartholomew’s nephew, Jose Holmes, 19, was shot in the face, the neck, both arms, the hand and the stomach. James Brissette, who was shot in the back, the leg, both arms and the back of the head, died on the bridge. The Bartholomew’s 14-year-old son ran away from the shooting and was fired at, but was not injured.
According to the evidence presented at trial, a second shooting occurred several minutes later, on the west side of the Danziger Bridge. After shooting at the Bartholomew Family and James Brissette, officers traveled to the other side of the bridge to chase two men – brothers Lance and Ronald Madison – who had run away when the shooting started. Officers caught up to the Madisons on the west side of the bridge, where Officer Faulcon used a shotgun to shoot Ronald Madison in the back as Madison was running away. Ronald, a 40-year-old man with severe mental and physical disabilities, died near the base of the bridge.
When the shooting was over, according to witnesses at trial, the officers at the scene immediately started a cover-up. Lance Madison was arrested and falsely charged with eight counts of attempting to kill police officers. Officers collected no guns or shell casings on the day of the shooting, and 30 casings they collected more than a month later were fired by officers rather than civilians. Three weeks after the shooting, Kaufman testified at a court appearance for Madison, claiming falsely that Madison had had a gun on the bridge and had shot at police. Madison was held in jail for three weeks, but was eventually released without being formally charged.
It was proven in court that the five men,along with the other officers who pled guilty earlier, after the shooting, conspired to make the shootings justified. Kaufman also took a gun from his home and then claimed to have found it at the site the day after the shootings. Kaufman also fabricated two witnesses and fashioned fake statements to help justify the shootings. The group also met in an abandoned NOPD building to get their stories straight before giving formal statements of the incident.