NEW ORLEANS -- Six officers accused of shooting innocent people on the Danziger Bridge following Hurricane Katrina or participating in the cover up have either turned themselves in to the FBI or been arrested.
Details were released at a press conference this afternoon with U.S. Attorney Eric Holder and local U.S. Attorney Jim Letten.
“Today’s indictment, we believe, is compelling evidence of our absolute, unswerving commitment to achieve true justice for the victims of these shootings by the police on the Danziger Bridge and of the coverup that followed,” said Letten.
"And our goals are simple and they are clear; first, to pursue, unmask, and bring to justice those police officers who allegedly abused their power in committing violent crimes against those individuals they were sworn to protect, to restore the trust of the people in police that are sworn to protect them and to ensure no one, absolutely no one ever, has to fear those whose job it is to protect them.”
The new indictments follow six previous guilty pleas, including five from former NOPD officers.
Defense Attorney Frank DeSalvo, who represents one of the men, Kenneth Bowen, said his client has been indicted on a civil rights charge and has surrendered.
DeSalvo also said that Anthony Villavaso and Robert Gisevius surrendered to the FBI, and that Robert Faulcon was arrested in Houston.
Also in the indictment were Gerard Dugue, a 33-year police veteran, and Sgt. Arthur Kaufman, who co-authored the police report on the Danziger Bridge shootings.
“Bowen, Gisevius, Villavaso and Faulcon, if convicted, can each face up to life imprisonment or, if the United States seeks it, the death penalty,” said Letten as he was flanked by Holder and members of the FBI and Attorney General's Office.
Five former New Orleans police officers already have pleaded guilty to helping cover up the shootings on the Danziger Bridge that left two men dead and four wounded just days after the August 2005 hurricane left the city in chaos.On September 4, 2005, Hunter drove a Budget rental truck full of NOPD officers to the Danziger Bridge, answering a call that officers on the bridge had taken fire.
According to Hunter's sworn statement, "(Sgt. Kenneth Bowen) suddenly leaned over the concrete barrier, held out his assault rifle, and, in a sweeping motion, fired repeatedly at the civilians lying wounded on the ground."
Hunter also admitted seeing another officer, believed to be Robert Faulcon, shoot a severely disabled man in the back with a shotgun. The victim was identified as Ronald Madison.
According to Hunter, as Madison lay dying on the ground, Bowen attacked and "appeared to be striking Madison's torso with as much force as he could muster."
Afterwards, Hunter said Bowen approached him and apologized for being "out of line."
In Hunter’s statement, he said later that day he attended a meeting at the make-shift police station for the 7th District, where the first of several meetings was held to coverup a “bad shoot.”
The civilians on the bridge "did not appear to have any weapons," Hunter said in his statement.
NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas issued a statement late Tuesday afternoon:
“This is another step in the judicial process in the continuing investigation by the Federal Authorities. With these latest revelations in the investigation, it is now time to look forward. I have recently made several command changes within the NOPD and I am continuing to analyze every aspect of the Department to make it more efficient and professional."