Six days after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans police officers opened fire on an unarmed family seeking refuge from the flooding that left much of the city under water. Seventeen-year-old James Brissette was killed and four others were wounded in the unprovoked attack that occurred on the Danzinger Bridge. Minutes after Brissette was gunned down, one of the officers shot and killed Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old man described by Justice officials as having severe mental disabilities.
Six years later, five current and former police officers have been found guilty on a combined 25 counts of civil rights violations tied to the fatal shootings. Jurors reached a verdict after three days of deliberations.
The five men are scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 14. Four of them are facing potential multiple life sentences, as well as additional penalties for charges tied to a conspiracy to cover up the killings. One of the convicted men faces a maximum penalty of 120 years in prison.
Other officers have already been convicted in connection with the shootings. They include Michael Hunter, who pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to obstruct justice. Hunter was sentenced to eight years in prison.
“Today’s verdict by these jurors sends a powerful, a powerful, unmistakable message to public servants, to law enforcement officers and to the citizens we serve and indeed to the world,” U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said on August 5. “The citizens of this country will not, should not, and we intend that they will never have to fear the individuals who are called upon to protect them.”
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