NEW ORLEANS – Lt. Michael Lohman said he knew something was wrong shortly after arriving at the Danziger Bridge where armed officers were standing along with wounded civilians during the aftermath of Katrina.
Lohman, a key witness for the prosecution, said he didn’t see any weapons and that Sgt. Kenneth Bowen talked about fabricating a tale that some of the civilians were armed.
Lohman admitted to participating in the cover-up but said he later regretted it, saying that he felt bad and that the victims didn’t deserve their fate.
Two people were killed and several others were wounded when police, allegedly responding to a report of shots fired and officers hit, opened fire on civilians.
Lohman, who said he arrived after the shooting, said he talked to three of the accused – Sgt. Kenneth Bowen, Sgt. Robert Gisevius and Officer Robert Faulcon. He said they were all wound up and confused about what had happened and he encouraged them to get their stories straight.
Still, he said he almost immediately sensed that the shoot was no good.
“I saw there were people on the pedestrian walkway who had been shot,” he testified. “They appeared to be serious gunshot wounds from a large caliber weapon.
“I was concerned that if these were the perpetrators, then where were the guns?”
Lohman said he asked Bowen about the lack of weapons and Bowen appeared ready to concoct a story almost immediately.
“He said that when he was talking to Bowen about the lack of weapons, ‘Bowen, where are the guns?’ recalled legal analyst Chick Foret. “Bowen turned to him and said ‘What about this, what if I say that I kicked the guns off the side of the bridge?’ It was almost like what do you think about this tale we’re going to tell? I thought that was a problem for Bowen.
Lohman then described part of the cover-up. He said an official report was filled with inconsistencies and outright fabrications. He said he went along because some of the officers were his friends.
He said he assigned defendant Arthur Kaufman to the investigation and that Kaufman didn’t plan to do much.
“We’re just not going to collect anything,” Lohman recalled Kaufman saying. “He was just going to write it off to Katrina.”
The defense tried to paint Lohman as the mastermind of any cover-up and bad report and repeatedly hit on the fact that Lohman entered into a plea deal and will escape with no more than five years in jail rather than 20 to 25 years he might be facing if he didn’t testify against his fellow officers.
In August 2009, prosecutors served him with a subpoena to testify before a grand jury. He initially refused to cut a deal, but changed his mind after a meeting with prosecutors in December 2009.
"At that point, I knew you had the truth," Lohman told Bernstein.
Reporter Maya Rodriguez contributed to this story