NEW ORLEANS – An ex-NOPD officer has become the fourth former member of the department to plead guilty in connection with a post-Katrina shooting on the Danziger Bridge that left two unarmed civilians dead and four others wounded.
Robert Barrios entered the plea on the same day that a civilian pleaded guilty in connection with the Danziger incident. Click here to see the factual basis.
Barrios pleaded guilty to conspiring to obstruct justice and could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Jacinto Barrios, the father of Robert, said his son got a "raw deal." He said the NOPD let him down, and that he should have left New Orleans.
Court documents show that Barrios admitted he was involved in concocting a story about what occurred on the bridge. Barrios said he met with other officers, including a supervisor who had been involved in the shooting to discuss their version of the story.
Barrios also admitted that, prior to giving a formal, audio-taped statement to NOPD investigators, he and other officers participated in a meeting with two sergeants assigned to investigate the shooting, during which the officers were instructed to get their stories straight before giving their formal statements.
Barrios further admitted that he lied, in a formal NOPD statement, in order to help cover for his fellow officers. Although Barrios had not seen any civilians with guns, and had not fired his weapon on the bridge, he claimed in his formal statement that he had seen two of the civilians using handguns to threaten officers, and that he and other officers had fired back at the civilians.
“Based on the statement of facts, it is apparent that yet another officer decided to play ‘follow the leader’ instead of demonstrating the character to stand up and do what is right and ethical. That failure to exhibit ethical and honorable behavior brings us to the results of today’s guilty plea of Barrios,” said Special Agent in Charge David Welker.
Previously former officer Michael Hunter, who has also pleaded guilty in the case, stated that a supervisor on the scene held out his assault rifle and, in a sweeping motion, fired repeatedly at civilians who had, by that time, taken cover behind a concrete barrier. Describing the shooting of Ronald Madison that occurred a few minutes later, Hunter stated that another NOPD officer shot Madison in the back, without warning, as Madison ran away, unarmed, following his brother toward a nearby motel. After Madison was shot, according to Hunter, the supervisor who had shot people earlier on the east side of the bridge, repeatedly kicked or stomped on Madison as he lay wounded and dying
Earlier in the day, Marion Ryder entered the plea to giving false statements to FBI agents investigating a cover-up of the shooting and illegal possession of a weapon as a convicted felon.
Ryder, who was in the New Orleans post-Katrina as part of a search and rescue effort and posed as a St. Landry sheriff deputy, was a witness to several events leading up the shooting of civilians on the bridge, according to the factual basis.
According to the document, Ryder, who is from Opelousas, lied to investigators, claiming that he saw someone running away from the bridge and that he had been shot at as he chased the person through a nearby trailer park between the I-10 high rise and the Danziger Bridge.
Ryder, who was illegally armed on the I-10 high rise bridge the morning of the Danziger shootings, said he heard what he believed to be bullets hitting the underside of the I-10 bridge and that he saw several people below the high rise bridge, according to the court document. The men, then, ran in the direction of the Danziger Bridge and Ryder chased after the men.
“During the chase, Ryder never got closer than a block from the men he was chasing; he never saw any men with a gun; and nobody fired a weapon in Ryder’s direction,” said the factual basis. “Ryder lost sight of the people that he was chasing and did not know whether they turned on a roadway or went under the Danziger Bridge and headed off in the northern direction.”
Later, according to the court document, Ryder was taken to the make-shift police station after the shooting on the Danziger Bridge where two people were killed – James Brisette and Ronald Madison -- and four people were severely injured by police, and a man in handcuffs was brought in by police officers and Ryder was asked if he was one of the men who had shot at the I-10 bridge.
Despite not seeing anyone shoot from the I-10 bridge nor knowing whether the man, Lance Madison, in handcuffs was one of the people that had fled in the direction of the Danziger bridge, Ryder said, “It looks like him,” said the factual basis.
Ryder was a critical witness to the coverup, alleging that Lance Madison and Ronald Madison had shot at police.
“Ryder never went to the west of the Danziger Bridge; never saw the dead man in front of a motel; and never identified a dead person in front the motel as having been one of the people who had previously shot at the I-10 bridge,” said the factual basis. The dead man in front of the motel was identified as Ronald Madison, a mentally disabled man who was shot and killed by police, according to court documents.
Ryder’s guilty plea is part of a plea deal with federal prosecutors. So far, three former NOPD officers -- Michael Lohman, Jeffrey Lehrmann and Michael Hunter -- have already entered guilty pleas in the case.