Behind the Danziger Bridge Shooting(6:30) A look back at the infamous post-Katrina police shooting as the federal trial begins.

Trial Begins for Last Defendant in Infamous Post-Katrina Police Shooting

by

The trial began yesterday for the last remaining officer facing charges in the Danziger Bridge shootings. In the days immediately following Hurricane Katrina New Orleans police officers shot six unarmed civilians, killing two.

Former homicide detective Gerard Dugue faces multiple charges, including conspiracy to obstruct justice and lying to federal agents.

Unlike the five officers who were convicted in the case last summer, Dugue was not on the bridge the day of the shootings. He took over the NOPD’s internal investigation of the incident about two months after the storm, and wrote a report that cleared the officers of wrongdoing.

“There was no justification for that shooting, but for almost six years the officers got away with it,” prosecutor Bobbi Bernstein said in her opening statement yesterday. “And that’s why we are here. Because the officers almost got away with it because of this man, Gerard Dugue.”

Claude Kelly, Dugue’s defense attorney, told the jury that the conspiracy was limited to the 10 officers who have already pleaded or been found guilty, referring to the officers, who worked out of New Orleans’ 7th District as the “7th District clique.”  Kelly also told jurors that Dugue’s investigation — which included ordering tests of the bullet casings found on the bridge that established a link to the officers’ weapons — was integral to the federal prosecutors’ case.

The Danziger Bridge case is one of six cases of questionable post-Katrina police shootings that we’ve been following for the past two years with our partners at ProPublica and the New Orleans Times-Picayune. To date, 13 officers have been convicted or have pleaded guilty in three cases.

Dugue’s trial has a “much more low-key feel to it” compared to last summer’s high-profile trial of the five other Danziger defendants, reports the Times-Picayune‘s Laura Maggi, who was at yesterday’s proceedings. Dugue’s trial is expected to last two to three weeks.

Dugue was also involved in another case we’ve been following — the death of Henry Glover, who was shot by an officer and whose body was burned by a different group of officers. Dugue started an internal investigation into Glover’s death, but his report was left unfinished after the FBI seized his computer.

Dugue was not charged with any wrongdoing in the Glover case. Two officers were convicted in Glover’s death; the conviction of a third officer, Travis McCabe, was overturned and he is awaiting a new trial.

In March 2011, the Justice Department released a scathing report that found “systemic violations of civil rights” by the NOPD, and the department is currently negotiating a federal consent decree with the Justice Department that would place the department under court supervision.  Two FBI agents have been stationed full time in the NOPD’s Public Integrity Bureau to investigate allegations of significant corruption or civil rights violations in the department.

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 John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Park Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Wyncote Foundation, and the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund with major support from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler on behalf of the Jon L. Hagler Foundation.
PBSCPBMacArthur FoundationPark FoundationFord Foundationwyncote

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.