Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS -- Week two of testimony in the Danziger Bridge shooting trial got underway Tuesday, and the jury heard from several people, including a member of the Bartholomew family and a former New Orleans police officer who was on the bridge when the shooting began.
Just days after Hurricane Katrina on a September morning in 2005, Leonard Bartholomew IV, who was then 14 years old, accompanied his family across the Danziger Bridge as they headed to a nearby supermarket.
“Everybody was happy that morning,” he told the jury Tuesday.
But that soon changed.
“As he was going up the bridge, he heard a vehicle that was going fast and he looked back and saw a rifle sticking outside of the passenger side of the vehicle, of the Budget rental truck,” said Eyewitness News legal analyst and former prosecutor Donald “Chick” Foret. “Very compelling testimony.”
Bartholomew told the jury he had no idea who was in the truck. He said no one identified themselves nor yelled out any commands, but shots suddenly rang out.
He described a chaotic scene. He said his family scrambled for cover on a pedestrian walkway, saying the gunfire was continuous.
Bartholomew began running and was eventually caught by an officer.
“He hit me across the eye, kicked me and handcuffed me.” Bartholomew said. “A female officer came and she wiped the blood off my forehead, then an ambulance came and they picked up everybody.”
Police took Bartholomew into custody. He eventually ended up at the command post at the greyhound bus station, but said he was later released with no phone, no shoes, no money and no idea what had happened to his family.
He said a Good Samaritan, a stranger named Carla, took him in after he told her what happened. His uncle found him a week and half later in Baton Rouge and brought him to the hospital to see his mother, father and other family members.
Bartholomew began crying on the stand as he described seeing them for the first time since the shooting.
“I felt I should have been shot,” he said. “Everybody else had to go through all this pain, and I was alright, just walking around.”
Bartholomew’s testimony was then followed by former NOPD Officer Kevin Bryan taking the stand. Bryan was in the truck with the other officers during the shooting, but he did not fire his weapon.
He admitted he was the officer who hit Bartholomew as he laid on the ground, saying that he “horrible … for hitting the kid.”
He also became nauseous when he saw the shooting victims bleeding, saying that he testified because “I felt ashamed of what I had done and telling the truth was the right thing to do. It was affecting me mentally.”
“Certainly today the prosecution is trying to rely on the emotions of the jury, as they did for much of last week,” Foret said.