Former NOPD officer in Danziger testimony says there was a cover-up


Posted on July 11, 2011 at 5:11 PM

Updated Monday, Jul 11 at 5:25 PM

Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News

NEW ORLEANS - Another former NOPD officer took the witness stand in the Danziger police shooting case Monday.

He told the jury witnesses were fabricated, stories were changed, and investigators planted evidence to cover-up an unjustified shooting of unarmed civilians.

The third week of testimony in the Danziger trial started with the government calling another key witness – a former NOPD officer who earlier pleaded guilty in the alleged shooting cover-up.

While he initially appeared to bolster the government’s case, the witness had a tough time answering questions during a blistering cross-examination by defense attorneys.

Former New Orleans police Officer Jeffery Lehrmann told the jury he arrived at the scene as shots rang out on the Danziger Bridge.

Five current or former officers are accused of killing two people and severely wounding four others on the bridge in the chaos after Hurricane Katrina.

Lehrmann admitted that he initially lied to investigators, but later decided to tell the truth to protect himself.

“We had a lot of problems because this was a bad shoot,” Lehrmann testified.

“Did you participate in a cover-up?” prosecutor Cindy Chung asked.

“Yes, ma’am,” he answered.

“What was the goal of the cover-up?” Chung asked.

“To protect the officers from prosecution,” Lehrmann said.

“What tools were used to cover-up the shooting?” Chung asked.

“Fabricating witnesses, planting evidence, and changing stories to justify the actions,” he replied.

During cross examination by defense attorneys Lehrmann had difficulty recalling specific facts about the shooting.

Defendant Archie Kaufmann’s attorney, Steve London, had Lehrmann at times, questioning the story he told to the FBI.

“Did anyone say they shot anyone on the bridge?” London asked.

“No,” Lehrmann said.

“Did anyone say they killed anyone?” London asked.

“No,” Lehrmann replied.

“Did anyone say they were going to lie and try to cover up the story?” London asked.

“No, i don’t think so,” Lehrmann said.

Lehrmann left the NOPD after Katrina to join immigration and custom’s enforcement.

Defendent Kenneth Bowen’s attorney, Frank Desalvo, asked Lehrmann, “How many times did you have to lie when you applied to become an immigration and customs agent?”

“None,” Lehrmann answered.

“You became a special agent?” Desalvo asked.

“Yes, sir,” he said.

“You don’t feel very special now, do you?” Desalvo asked.

“No, sir, not at all,” Lehrmann said.

Last year, Lehrmann pleaded guilty to knowing about a felony crime and failing to report it. His three-year sentence could be reduced based on his help to the government.