Former NOPD Officers Testify About “Secret Meeting” to Determine Danziger Bridge Cover-Up

by

Yesterday, the prosecution rested in the trial of Gerard Dugue, a former NOPD detective accused of helping to cover up the police shootings on the Danziger Bridge.  Six unarmed civilians were shot by police on the bridge in the days following Hurricane Katrina; four were severely wounded and two were killed.

Dugue was not at the bridge on the day of the incident. He took over the NOPD’s internal investigation six weeks later, and wrote the final report that justified the officers actions in the shootings.

Three former officers who have pleaded guilty for their roles in the conspiracy were among the prosecution’s witnesses. All three, who are currently serving prison terms, wore orange prison jumpsuits during their testimony.

Two of the officers testified that Dugue was at what prosecutors describe as a January 2006 “secret meeting” during which the officers developed the cover-up.

“We were all together in a circle. It was stated to us, get your story straight because it was going to be recorded,” testified former officer Ignatius Hills, who is serving a six-and-a-half-year prison term. But when questioned by Claude Kelly, Dugue’s attorney, Hills admitted that over the years he has told different stories about who was at the meeting.

Jeffrey Lehrmann, who was the first officer to cooperate with prosecutors in the case, also placed Dugue at the meeting, testifying that Dugue said, “This never happened” as the meeting ended. But under cross-examination, Kelly noted that in 2009 Lehrmann said he wasn’t sure who made that comment.  Lehrmann is currently serving a three-year prison term.

After jurors left for the day yesterday, Kelly asked U.S. District Court Judge Kurt Engelhardt to dismiss charges against Dugue, arguing that prosecutors had failed to prove their case. “I do have some concerns about some counts in this case,” noted Engelhardt, but he said he would let jurors hear the case, and decide later whether any convictions should be overturned. Last summer, Engelhardt threw out three counts against the five officers convicted in the Danziger Bridge case after the verdict.

Engelhardt also raised questions about Lehrmann, noting he had also offered contradictory testimony at last summer’s trial. “I have to tell you I have some real concerns about Mr. Lehrmann’s testimony, as I did last summer. He has gotten no better at giving questionable testimony in a federal case,” the judge said, warning prosecutors to be careful with Lehrmann’s testimony in their closing arguments.

blog comments powered by Disqus

In order to foster a civil and literate discussion that respects all participants, FRONTLINE has the following guidelines for commentary. By submitting comments here, you are consenting to these rules:

Readers' comments that include profanity, obscenity, personal attacks, harassment, or are defamatory, sexist, racist, violate a third party's right to privacy, or are otherwise inappropriate, will be removed. Entries that are unsigned or are "signed" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. We reserve the right to not post comments that are more than 400 words. We will take steps to block users who repeatedly violate our commenting rules, terms of use, or privacy policies. You are fully responsible for your comments.

SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

FRONTLINE on

ShopPBS
Frontline Journalism Fund

Supporting Investigative Reporting

Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Park Foundation, the Wyncote Foundation, and the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund with major support from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler on behalf of the Jon L. Hagler Foundation.PBSPark FoundationMacArthur FoundationwyncoteCPB

FRONTLINE   Watch FRONTLINE   About FRONTLINE   Contact FRONTLINE
Privacy Policy   Journalistic Guidelines   PBS Privacy Policy   PBS Terms of Use   Corporate Sponsorship
FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of WGBH Educational Foundation.
Web Site Copyright ©1995-2014 WGBH Educational Foundation
PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.