finally, 4 years later..
NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (CNN) -- An office of the New Orleans Police Department was searched last week in connection with a federal investigation into the shootings of two men on a bridge just after Hurricane Katrina, authorities said.
Katrina evacuees cross the Industrial Canal. The FBI is investigating a 2005 shooting at the Danziger Bridge.
Katrina evacuees cross the Industrial Canal. The FBI is investigating a 2005 shooting at the Danziger Bridge.
A search warrant was executed Wednesday at the department's homicide office, according to the FBI.
"The FBI executed a search warrant as it relates to the ongoing civil rights investigation into the Danziger Bridge shootings post-Katrina," said a statement from David Welker, special agent in charge of the FBI's New Orleans office. "The affidavit remains under seal."
The New Orleans Times-Picayune, in a story published Friday, cited unnamed law enforcement sources as saying the agents seized the files and computer hard drives of two officers assigned to investigate police conduct in the bridge shooting -- Sgt. Arthur Kaufman and Sgt. Gerard Dugue.
Police Department spokesman Bob Young told the newspaper that federal agents were joined by investigators from the department's Public Integrity Bureau in executing the warrant. The Police Department "is cooperating with the U.S. attorney's office and the FBI in their continuing investigation into the Danziger Bridge incident," Young said in a written statement, the Times-Picayune reported. Young did not immediately return a call from CNN on Monday.
The bridge shootings occurred September 4, 2005, days after Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast. Two men were killed and four were wounded as they attempted to evacuate New Orleans by crossing the Danziger Bridge over the Industrial Canal in eastern New Orleans.
Seven police officers were initially charged in the case. They were responding to reports that rescue workers had heard gunfire and that an officer had been wounded on the bridge. Police have said officers fired shots only after being shot at, although some evidence contradicts that.
Ronald Madison, 40, and James Brissette, 19, were killed. Autopsy results showed that Madison, a mentally ill man with no criminal record, was shot in the back. No weapon was found on or near his body.
In August 2008, a judge quashed indictments against Sgts. Kenneth Bowen and Robert Gisevius Jr., Officer Anthony Villavaso II and former Officer Robert Faulcon Jr., who were all facing first-degree murder and attempted murder charges. In addition, he threw out attempted first-degree murder charges against Officers Mike Hunter Jr. and Robert Barrios, and attempted second-degree murder charges against Officer Ignatius Hills.
In doing so, now-retired Criminal District Judge Raymond Bigelow noted that Bowen, Hills and Hunter were all forced to testify before the same grand jury that indicted them and the four others. Louisiana law says that information from a person's testimony cannot be used against them in a criminal case, the judge said. "The state improperly used the testimony of these officers to indict them as well as the others," Bigelow said. He cited testimony in which a police lieutenant said he had been shown Bowen's grand jury testimony.
In September, however, the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana and the FBI's New Orleans office issued a statement saying they plan to conduct "an independent and thorough review" of the Danziger Bridge incident.
"In the best spirit of law enforcement cooperation, and at the request of the victim's families, the New Orleans district attorney has referred the matter to the United States Department of Justice for review," Jim Letten, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, said in the statement. "... The Civil Rights division, FBI and our U.S. attorney's office will utilize as much time and resources as necessary to determine whether there are any prosecutable violations of federal criminal law in this matter."
Mary Howell, a New Orleans attorney representing Madison's family in a civil rights suit against city officials, said Monday she understands the Justice Department is investigating several incidents involving the Police Department in the days after Katrina, including the bridge shooting.
"It appears that they're serious, and hopefully they will be thorough," she said. "There's a lot that happened during that time that is not known now and frankly may never be known." She called the federal investigation the "best shot" at uncovering the truth.
The federal lawsuit is on hold pending the outcome of the criminal investigation, she said.
Kaufman was a supervising officer who arrived on the scene shortly after the bridge shootings. He and Dugue collaborated on the Police Department's follow-up report on the incident.
Dugue, according to the Times-Picayune, was also assigned to investigate the shooting of a man, possibly by police officers, in New Orleans' West Bank suburb of Algiers in the days after Katrina. The man's charred remains were found in a burned car behind a district police station, the newspaper said.
Feds investigate NOPD four years after Katrina; gun seizures should play into case
September 8, 2:34 PMSeattle Gun Rights ExaminerDave Workman
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Four years after Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on the City of New Orleans, leaving anarchy in its wake, the Department of Justice is reportedly putting on a full court press investigation of the police in that city, with the main focus being on two shooting incidents that left three people dead.
Let’s be up front about this: Since the Second Amendment Foundation and National Rifle Association (and nobody else!) stepped to file a landmark federal lawsuit to stop authorities in New Orleans from illegally seizing firearms in the hurricane’s aftermath, nobody has been held accountable for that treachery. Now would be a good time for Barack Obama and Eric Holder to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that they respect the Second Amendment by ordering the FBI to find out who issued the confiscation order, and bring them to justice, along with the individual officers who behaved like goons. Their tactics reflected on the thousands of good and decent police officers and sheriff’s deputies all over the country who would never dream of acting without warrant and abusing their authority, no matter what the emergency, and it created a distrust of law enforcement at times of emergency that lingers today.
Privately, officers have groused that the feds are using strong-arm tactics, not offering professional courtesy usually extended to fellow law enforcement agencies.
Specifically, we are talking about the cops, apparently from New York who seized, at gunpoint, two rifles from brothers Buell and Rodney Teel on the waters of Lake Pontchartrain, and the Highway Patrolmen, apparently from California, who body-slammed frail Patricia Konie in her own home just to take away from her the vintage Colt revolver she showed them to prove she could take care of herself. She was hurt so badly by that physical assault that she required surgery.
Right now, NOPD officers are in the crosshairs of this federal probe, and some have complained to the New Orleans Times-Picayune about the "strong-arm tactics" being used by the feds. Well, nobody is forcing them to testify at gunpoint, nor has anyone been physically assaulted. A whine like that is going to fall on deaf ears among New Orleans citizens who were forcibly stripped of their private property.
Mary Howell, a New Orleans attorney representing (one victim's) family in a civil rights suit against city officials, said Monday she understands the Justice Department is investigating several incidents involving the Police Department in the days after Katrina, including the bridge shooting.
Ever since then-Police Superintendent Eddie Compass announced to reporters that nobody but police would have guns, Second Amendment activists have wanted to know who issued that unconstitutional order. A few years ago when I was debating the travesty on a New Orleans talk show with Compass’ successor, Supt. Warren Riley, he dodged the direct question when I told him on-air that I wanted to know who issued the order. To him, it wasn’t important. To millions of outraged American gun owners, it is of critical importance. As my press colleagues are so fond of stating, the public has a right to know.
Simply because there is a natural or man-made disaster, one does not suspend the constitution, or state statute. We’re not talking about just the Second Amendment, but also the Fourth.
More than 1,000 firearms were illegally seized by the police and National Guard troopers, without warrant or probable cause, and with no legal authority under existing statute.
Ginny Simone, a gutsy news anchor for NRA News, put together a video report that today ought to be required viewing for any public official who thinks that in an emergency, he or she becomes a reigning monarch. It is a segment that fully explains the outrage gun owners feel toward the Ray Nagin administration and why, even today, millions of Americans continue their boycott of the Crescent City. They will not travel there, buy goods from there or suggest to anyone else to visit the city.
If Nagin thinks that is unfair, too bad. His administration ignored, stonewalled and outright lied about the gun confiscations until attorneys representing SAF and NRA headed to court with a contempt citation. The city obfuscated for more than a year about those guns, by which time they were in such disrepair that they were worthless. Even after the case was finally settled, New Orleans authorities seemed to drag their feet. Upon investigation, many of the guns were found to have been deliberately damaged.
The FBI is understandably mum on where this investigation may lead; the agency does not discuss on-going cases. The fear is that this civil rights probe will stop with the two fatal shooting incidents, and that those responsible for what authors Gordon Hutchinson and Todd Masson called The Great New Orleans Gun Grab will escape accountability.
In the wake of the Katrina debacle, which SAF founder Alan Gottlieb called a “Constitutional outrage,” several state legislatures adopted laws that specifically prohibit the kind of gun confiscations that occurred. Over the past four years, I’ve heard from various street cops and even a couple of county sheriffs who would, they promise, ignore such orders if they were ever given.
What happened in New Orleans must never again be allowed to happen on American soil.
As NRA’s Wayne LaPierre is quick to remind people when asked what they should do in case of another disaster, “Remember New Orleans.”
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