Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS -- Former NOPD officer Ignatius Hills described the scene Thursday as New Orleans police officers approached the Danziger Bridge in a rental truck days after Hurricane Katrina, thinking there were officers in need of assistance.
“It was tense. There wasn’t much talking at all,” Hills said. He testified that when they got to the bridge he heard shots coming from the exterior, passenger side of the truck and said it sounded like an AK-47.
Hills said he did not get out of the truck right away, but he eventually fired his weapon aiming for a man he saw.
“Did he pose a threat to you?” asked prosecutor Theodore Carter.
“No,” Hills replied.
“Did he threaten you?” Carter asked.
“No,” Hills replied.
“Was it a justified shooting?” Carter asked.
“No,” Hills said again.
"On cross-examination defense attorneys scored several points when they pointed out to the jury that Ignatius Hills actually stayed inside of the vehicle for several minutes, two to three or four minutes," said Eyewitness News legal analyst and former prosecutor Donald "Chick" Foret. "And they clearly pointed out that he didn't see everything that happened, certainly he didn't see everything that happened before the vehicle stopped, and he didn't see everything that happened for a couple minutes after the vehicle had stopped when most of the gunfire had taken place."
When the shooting stopped, Hills described the scene left behind.
“I saw at least five victims sprawled out on the concrete,” he said. “One female, her arm appeared to be severed. There was just so much blood leaking from these individuals.”
Hills went on to talk about the official police report on the Danziger shooting, which he described as “ridiculous… as far as having so many victims on the bridge, it was not in-depth enough to justify any shootings by officers.”
Under cross examination defense attorneys asked Hills whether what he heard of the radio traffic that day sounded like officers were down – as in wounded – under the bridge.
“I really didn’t get a full understanding, if they meant under the bridge -- or down, wounded under the bridge,” he said.
But in follow-up questioning from prosecutors, Hills elaborated.
"And I thought Mr. Carter did an excellent job on redirecting. When he got Mr. Hills to say, 'Listen, I was unsure at that time, I was unclear as to exactly what was meant, but I can tell you this: nobody ever looked for any officers down underneath the bridge, and there was no discussion about any officers possibly being down under the bridge," Foret said. "So he said all I can tell you is it was not discussed and nobody went under the bridge to look for the officers."