The Big Easy is still recovering from the ills of the greatest natural disaster it has ever faced. The challenges of recovery include not only scarcity of resources, but also an inability to reconcile the realities of race and class in the struggle to rebuild New Orleans spiritually as well as physically. Among the issues with which the city grapples is that of resolving outstanding criminal activities that occurred in the wake of this great tragedy.
One such matter is the Federal trial of white police officers charged in the deaths of 2 and the wounding of 4 others, all unarmed, on the Danziger Bridge in New Orleans on September 4, 2005. The story is that officers piled into a truck and went to the bridge after receiving a call about dangerous activity taking place. Once the officers arrived they observed civilians walking up the bridge and, according to trial testimony, the officers started shooting.
One of the challenges of this case is that the officers proceeded to cover up the incident over a year after it occurred. Several officers involved have pleaded guilty. Officers Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, Robert Faulcon, Anthony Villavaso and Authur Kaufman, however, are on trial for the incident. Kaufman was not an officer on the bridge at the time of the incident, but prosecutors say that as an investigator he made up evidence and did not tell the truth to the FBI.
The case continues to draw wide appeal and is a very important case for the federal government due to the issue of police-abuse. State charges against the offices were tossed out of an Orleans parish criminal court by a judge who cited prosecutorial misconduct. The current federal case led by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division did not begin until fall 2008.
In an open statement the prosecutor laid out how the victims were shot. Ronald Madison, 40 and James Brisette, 17 were killed. Susan Bartholomew, Leonard Bartholomew III, Lesha Bartholomew and Jose Holmes were wounded. “Ronald, who was unarmed, disabled and already wounded, was blasted in the back,” said the prosecuting attorney.
The defense began it’s defense Friday, July 22nd. Frank DeSalvo, the defenses attorney said before the trail began, “We are ready for trial. We hope that the truth comes out and the public will understand what happened.”
Week 4 of the trail began this week. There are nine other federal trails where New Orleans Police Officers are accused of wrong doing post Hurricane Katrina.