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In The NewsJune 28, 2011 11:00

What Happened on the Danziger Bridge?

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  • Law & DisorderAn on-air and online investigation into questionable police shootings by the New Orleans Police Department in the wake of Katrina.


The shootings by police on Danziger Bridge on Sept. 4, 2005 have become one of the most infamous moments in the post-Katrina history of New Orleans. Five NOPD officers are now on trial in federal court facing charges stemming from an incident that left two people dead and four seriously wounded.

It was clear and hot that Sunday when a dozen police officers drove onto Danziger Bridge, guns firing. They had been called to the scene after receiving a distress call about a fellow officer under fire. But the only other people on the bridge at that moment were eight individuals, all of whom say they were walking across the bridge in search of food and medicine. None had any weapons, they say. When the police started firing the eight civilians ran and sought cover -- no one returned fire.

Prosecutors say that after the shooting stopped, the police -- realizing a possible "bad shooting" of epic proportions -- almost immediately started fabricating a cover-up. Five officers on the bridge that day have cooperated with federal agents and are expected to testify about creating a seamless narrative of their innocence and planting a fake gun -- in NOPD parlance, a "ham sandwich" -- on the scene.

The Danziger Bridge trial marks one of the U.S. Department of Justice's most significant criminal prosecution of police since the early 1990s. It is also what many in New Orleans hope is a final chapter in the long history of corruption and violence in the NOPD.

For regular updates on the trial, visit the Law & Disorder website.

Tom Jennings produced, directed and reported Law & Disorder in collaboration with ProPublica and The Times-Picayune.

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posted june 28, 2011

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