NEW ORLEANS – An NOPD officer who is expected to plead guilty to federal charges in connection with the shooting of four unarmed people on the Danziger Bridge resigned from the police department Wednesday, according to Assistant Superintendent Marlon Defillo.
Officer Michael Hunter, who would be the first of the so-called "Danziger 7," to enter a guilty plea, turned in his resignation early Wednesday morning.
He is expected to plead guilty to misprision of a felony and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
"Those seven officers always made a united front throughout the state court proceeding, and now the government's managed to get a crack within those seven and have him cooperate by pleading guilty," said former U.S. Attorney Harry Rosenberg.
According to a bill of information filed in U.S. District Court on Tuesday, Hunter knowingly hindered the investigation and "it was the plan and purpose of the conspiracy that the defendant and his co-conspirators would provide false and misleading information... in order to ensure that the shootings would appear to be legally justified and that the involved officers would therefore be shielded from liability."
Click here to read the bill of information
The original police report on the Danziger Bridge shooting claimed Hunter drove officers to the bridge in a rental truck and that he fired three shots on the bridge, though those rounds didn't hit anyone. Two people died and four others were injured in the Danziger incident.
Hunter's attorney, Townsend Myers, declined to do an interview on Tuesday.
"I really don't think it would be in my client's best interest to say anything beyond what's already out there," Myers told Eyewitness News.
In 2006, the Orleans District Attorney's Office indicted the Danziger 7, which included two attempted first-degree murder indictments for Hunter. A state judge later threw out those indictments. The current federal charges are far less severe: conspiracy to obstruct justice and misprision of a felony.
"Even though they're two charges, they're still what's considered to be 'low-level offenses,'" Rosenberg said. "So, it's still an attractive deal from the defendant's standpoint and it's that same type of enticement the government has to get people to cooperate."
Two former New Orleans Police officers, Michael Lohman and Jeffrey Lehrmann, already pleaded guilty to the cover-up related to the bridge shooting. Rosenberg said any information Hunter provides to federal authorities would likely give an insider's perspective as to what happened on the Danziger Bridge on September 4, 2005.
"The government is moving closer and closer to where the action apparently was on the bridge," Rosenberg said. "Lohman was involved in what he acknowledged was a cover-up of the investigation. Lehrmann said he was on the bridge, but couldn't see any of the shooting. But here's Hunter, participating in the shooting on the bridge, and I'm sure has some first-hand information to share with the government."