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October 6, 2011 13:48 Tough Sentences for Danziger Bridge Officers Turned Witnesses Federal prosecutors yesterday asked for leniency in sentencing two former New Orleans police officers who pleaded guilty to participating in the cover-up of the notorious post-Katrina Danziger Bridge shootings. CONTINUE »
September 15, 2011 13:26 FBI Agents To Monitor New Orleans Police Two FBI agents will be stationed full time in the NOPD's Public Integrity Bureau, the department and the FBI jointly announced this week. The agents, whose presence was requested by the NOPD, will investigate allegations of significant corruption or civil rights violations in the department. CONTINUE »
August 5, 2011 14:07 Verdict: Five NOPD Officers Guilty in Danziger Bridge Shootings, Cover-Up A federal jury today found all five Danziger Bridge defendants guilty of the shootings that killed two civilians and seriously wounded four others in the days after Hurricane Katrina. The jury also found the officers guilty of a massive cover-up that lasted nearly five years. Five NOPD officers had previously pleaded guilty in the case. CONTINUE »
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Updates

October 6, 2011 13:48

Tough Sentences for Danziger Bridge Officers Turned Witnesses

Federal prosecutors yesterday asked for leniency in sentencing two former New Orleans police officers who pleaded guilty to participating in the cover-up of the notorious post-Katrina Danziger Bridge shootings. Two civilians were killed and four were wounded in the incident.

Both officers -- Michael Hunter and Ignatius Hills -- testified on behalf of the prosecution during the trial, which resulted in the convictions of five of their former colleagues.

But in both cases federal judges rejected the prosecutors' requests. Hunter will serve eight years in federal prison and Hills will serve six and a half years. Their colleagues convicted at trial face sentences of 35 years or more.

Hunter, who pleaded guilty to helping cover up the shootings, drove the officers to the scene. He admitted to firing "warning shots" at the civilians, an assertion which U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance called "preposterous" after reviewing a video that captured the shooting. Vance said it was clear that Hunter was shooting "dead level" not over the civilians' heads as he claimed.

Hills also pleaded guilty to charges relating to the cover-up. During the trial he admitted to shooting at a fleeing teenager, but the shots missed. In denying prosecutors' request for leniency, U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman compared Hills' actions to those of former officer Anthony Villavaso, who was convicted at the trial. "They both shot at someone," he said. "They both missed. They both lied." Villavaso faces more than 35 years in prison.

Last month, another judge, U.S. District Court Judge Lance Africk also rejected prosecutors' request to reduce the sentence of former officer Jeffrey Lehrmann, who pleaded guilty to participating in the cover-up. Lehrman will serve a three-year sentence.

Seven other officers await sentencing in the case.

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September 15, 2011 13:26

FBI Agents To Monitor New Orleans Police

Two FBI agents will be stationed full time in the NOPD's Public Integrity Bureau, the department and the FBI jointly announced this week. The agents, whose presence was requested by the NOPD, will investigate allegations of significant corruption or civil rights violations in the department.

"I can't tell you how important this is," said U.S. Attorney Jim Letten, whose office has recently led several high-profile prosecutions of NOPD officers. "We are in the process of groundbreaking reform."

This is not the first time the FBI has stationed agents within the NOPD to fight corruption -- in the mid-90s, it became the first department to ever have FBI agents in its public integrity department after a series of shocking scandals that peaked when Officer Len Davis ordered a hit on a civilian who filed a complaint after witnessing him beating a neighborhood teenager. The order was inadvertently recorded by federal officials who were investigating Davis' involvement in a cocaine ring.

The FBI and NOPD halted the initial agreement in 2005, after Hurricane Katrina hit and the FBI redirected its resources towards Katrina-related fraud cases. But it's a number of high-profile police shootings in the days immediately following Katrina -- six of which FRONTLINE has been investigating with our partners at ProPublica and the New Orleans Times-Picayune -- that have brought the FBI back to New Orleans.

This summer, five NOPD officers were convicted for their roles in shooting of six unarmed civilians on the Danziger Bridge and covering up the crime. Two of the civilians died in the shootings and four were gravely wounded. An additional five officers have pleaded guilty in the case.

And two NOPD officers have been sentenced to at least 17 years in prison for their roles in shooting Henry Glover and then burning a parked car containing his body.

In March, the Justice Department released a scathing report that found "systemic violations of civil rights" by the NOPD.

In addition to the new FBI presence, the NOPD and the Justice Department are in the midst of working out a consent decree with the aim to foster "fundamental culture change" in the department. Upon its implementation, the consent decree is expected to govern the department for years.

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August 5, 2011 14:07

Verdict: Five NOPD Officers Guilty in Danziger Bridge Shootings, Cover-Up

A federal jury today found all five Danziger Bridge defendants guilty of the shootings that killed two civilians and seriously wounded four others in the days after Hurricane Katrina. The jury also found the officers guilty of a massive cover-up that lasted nearly five years. Five NOPD officers had previously pleaded guilty in the case.

The Danziger Bridge case is the most high-profile of the six cases of questionable NOPD shootings after Katrina that we've been investigating with ProPublica and the New Orleans Times-Picayune. It also is one of the U.S. Justice Department's most significant criminal prosecutions of police since the early 1990s. Earlier this year, a 158-page report by the Justice Department found that the NOPD "has been largely indifferent to widespread violations of law and policy by its officers."

Read more on the verdict from our partners at the Times-Picayune.

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August 3, 2011 10:57

Danziger Bridge Case Goes to the Jury

In closing arguments yesterday, both the prosecution and defense teams asked the jury to consider the Danziger Bridge shootings in light of Hurricane Katrina.

"They thought because of Katrina no one was watching. They thought they could do what they wanted to do and there wouldn't be any consequences. It never occurred to them that they were shooting two good families," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Theodore Carter.

"This is a day like no other. It is a time of disorder, chaos and lawlessness. That doesn't mean the rules change, but the perception changes," said defense attorney Paul Fleming.

Read more about yesterday's closing arguments from our partners at the Times-Picayune.

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August 1, 2011 11:11

Testimony Ends in Danziger Bridge Case

On Friday, prosecutors called several rebuttal witnesses to the stand, including a woman named Lakeisha Smith, a former New Orleans resident who now lives in Texas, who was listed in the initial police report as having witnessed the shootings.

Prosecutors alleged Detective Arthur Kaufman invented Smith and another civilian witness listed in the report. But earlier in the trial, Kaufman's attorney called to the stand a private detective, who said he had found Smith, living in Texas.

On Friday, Smith said she did not witness any shootings on the bridge.

Read more about Friday's testimony from our partners at the Times-Picayune

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July 29, 2011 12:09

Defense Wraps Up Danziger Bridge Case

Yesterday, the defense offered its final witness -- a nurse who cared for Jose Holmes, Jr. after he was shot on the bridge. She tesitifed that Holmes told her that some of the people he was with on the bridge had guns.

Earlier in the day, defense lawyers read the grand jury testimony of two other NOPD officers who were on the bridge into the record. Officer Heather Gore said that when she arrived at the scene with other officers in a Budget rental truck she heard a "pinging" sound that she believed came from someone shooting at the truck. She also told the grand jury that she saw a man, who later got away, pointing an assault rifle at police. Lt. NAME Tollefson testified that he heard a man tell police that he and his brother fired weapons on the bridge.

Prosecutors are expected to offer rebuttal witnesses today and closing arguments will take place next week.

Read more from our partners at the Times-Picayune.

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July 28, 2011 11:05

First Indicted Officer Testifies in Danziger Bridge Trial

Yesterday, former NOPD Robert Faulcon testified that within a span of four seconds, he arrived at the Danziger Bridge, assessed the scene, saw two male civilians with handguns and began firing his weapon.

Faulcon is the first of the five officers on trial to testify in his own defense. "I feel horrible because of the fact, you know, in that split second when I saw guns, I might have been right or I might have been wrong," he said. "My heart goes out to the people that were hurt. At that time, when I saw guns, I felt my actions were justified based on what I saw in that split second."

But under cross-examination by prosecutors, Faulcon admitted to firing a shotgun towards civilians that may have been unarmed and to fatally shooting an unarmed man in the back. He also said other officers continued to shoot despite the lack of threat, and acknowledged a cover-up.

Read more about yesterday's testimony from our partners at the Times-Picayune.

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July 27, 2011 11:16

Jury Takes Field Trip to the Danziger Bridge

Early yesterday morning, Louisana state troopers closed parts of the Danziger Bridge so that the jurors could see the scene of the police shootings for themselves. Both prosecutors and defense attorneys had filed motions with the judge saying they wanted jurors to see the bridge.

Jurors visited key locations, including parts of the bridge itself, the on-ramp and the grassy area underneath the bridge. Defense attorneys argue that one or more people may also have been firing at the bridge from the grassy area.

Read more from our partners at the Times-Picayune.

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July 26, 2011 11:16

Danziger Bridge Jurors Hear Another Secretly Taped Conversation

Yesterday, defense attorneys in the Danziger Bridge trial played a tape secretly recorded by former NOPD officer Robert Barrios after he began cooperating with prosecutors.

On the tape, Barrios can be heard repeatedly trying to get his former partner Anthony Villavaso to admit the civilians on the Danziger Bridge were unarmed. "It is what it is," Barrios says on the tape. "There were no guns."

"Bro, I'm telling you what I saw," Villavaso responds, insisting he saw weapons. "That's what I f****** saw. That is what I saw."

Barrios has pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. But unlike the other four officers who have pleaded guilty, he was not called as a prosecution witness.

Read more about yesterday's testimony from our partners at the Times-Picayune.

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July 22, 2011 11:15

No. 2 NOPD Cop Resigns on the Eve of Disciplinary Hearing

Yesterday Marlon Defillo, the second highest-ranking NOPD officer, announced his retirement from the force, effective immediately. Defillo was facing a disciplinary hearing today regarding his failure to investigate a possible NOPD role in the killing of Henry Glover and subsequent cover-up.

Two NOPD officers were convicted in December for their roles in the death of Glover, who was shot and killed by an NOPD officer and whose body was subsequently burned by other officers.

Read more from our partners at the Times-Picayune.

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July 22, 2011 10:56

Prosecution Wraps Up in Danziger Bridge Trial; Defense Begins Presenting Case

Prosecutors in the Danziger Bridge trial wrapped up their case yesterday, following emotional testimony from Lesha Bartholomew, who was shot in the side. Bartholomew, who was 17 at the time, told the jury she then scrambled behind a concrete barrier to try to protect her mother, whose arm had been nearly blown off by a high-powered round.

Defense attorneys presented two initial witnesses. Shawn Gasaway, a paramedic from Arkansas who was helping post-Katrina evacuation efforts, came to the bridge after hearing calls for assistance over the radio. Gasaway testified that when he arrived he could hear gunfire coming from several directions, including from a grassy area to the right of the bridge. A key theory from the defense is that in addition to the officers on the bridge, another unknown person or persons was shooting from that grassy area.

A second defense witness, Tris Lear, is a former investigator for the state attorney general. After the shootings, Lear had interviewed Lance Madison, who was with his brother Ronald, who was killed that day. Lear said Madison told him he had seen civilians shooting at police on the bridge.

Read more about yesterday's testimony from our partners at the Times-Picayune.

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July 20, 2011 10:42

Defense Attorney Offers Alternate Explanation for Shootings

Yesterday, Eric Hessler, defense attorney for Sgt. Robert Gisevius, questioned the FBI's theory of the Danziger Bridge shootings and suggested an alternative explanation.

Hessler was questioning William Bezak, a prosecution witness who led the FBI investigation of the shootings, and argued that bullet markings on the bridge suggested that a gunman was firing from underneath the bridge. According to this theory, the wounded civilians got caught in the cross-fire between the police on the bridge and the unknown gunman below.

Read more about yesterday's testimony from our partners at the Times-Picayune.

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July 20, 2011 10:28

Danziger Bridge Jurors Hear Secretly Taped Conversation

On Monday, prosecutors played excerpts from a three-hour conversation in which Sgt. Robert Gisevius hinted at a conspiracy to cover-up the police shootings on the Danziger Bridge and took shots at his colleagues.

"What weak link could sink the ship?" he asked aloud, while naming other officers.

The conversation, at a bar, was secretly recorded by Jeffrey Lehrmann, a former NOPD officer who was cooperating with the government and who has pleaded guilty to knowing about, but not reporting a felony. Lehrmann has been sentenced to three years in prison.

Read more about Monday's testimony from our partners at the Times-Picayune.

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July 15, 2011 10:43

Forensic Pathologist Testifies About Shooting Victims

Dr. Vincent DiMaio, a forensic pathologist, testified yesterday that 17-year-old James Brisette was killed by a shotgun blast to the head, and then he was shot an additional three times while laying face-down on the ground on the Danziger Bridge. He said that Brisette was shot at least twice with a shotgun, at least twice with an AK-47 and at least two other times.

DiMaio also told the jury that Ronald Madison, who died on the other side of the bridge, was killed by a shotgun blast to the back, and that the five shooting victims who lived were wounded by four types of weapons: a shotgun, an AK-47, a Glock handgun and a "center-fire rifle" that uses .223-caliber ammunition.

Read more about yesterday's testimony from our partners at the Times-Picayune.

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July 14, 2011 11:03

Weapons Expert: At Least Three Guns Involved in James Brisette Shooting

A firearms expert who works for the Louisiana State Police testified yesterday that James Brissette, who died on the Danziger Bridge, was hit by six projectiles fired from at least three different weapons. Brissette was 17 years old at the time of the shooting.

One bullet removed from Brissette's body definitively matched an AK-47 carried by Sgt. Kenneth Bowen, the expert, Patrick Lane, told the jury. Lane said a second bullet of the same caliber could have come from Bowen's weapon but he could not definitively match it.

Read more about yesterday's testimony from our partners at the Times-Picayune.

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July 13, 2011 10:49

"It Just Felt a Little Odd"

That's how FBI Special Agent Kelly Bryson described Sgt. Arthur Kaufman's story of what happened on the Danziger Bridge.

Bryson, who interviewed Kaufman in early 2009, thought she was investigating whether police used improper force in the incident. But, she said, in listening to Kaufman's version of events, "There were some very specific areas that just didn't make sense to me." Kaufman was the NOPD's lead investigator in the case and is accused of helping cover up the police shootings on the bridge.

Read more about yesterday's testimony from our partners at the Times-Picayune.

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July 12, 2011 11:57

Former Detective Describes Cover-Up, "Ham Sandwich"

Former officer Jeffrey Lehrmann testified that his supervisor, Sgt. Arthur Kaufman, emerged from his home one day with a brown paper bag containing a "ham sandwich." In fact, the bag contained a gun -- which Kaufman described as "clean" or untraceable -- to be planted as evidence.

Lehrmann has pleaded guilty to not reporting a crime and has been sentenced to three years in federal prison for his role in the cover-up.

Viewers of our film, Law and Disorder, will remember Mike Thames, who was an NOPD officer in the '80s and '90s before being arrested himself arrested for bank robbery. "Every cop I knew carried a ham sandwich," he told us. "I carried mine with me wherever I went."

Read more about yesterday's testimony from our partners at the Times-Picayune.

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July 11, 2011 11:51

Danziger Bridge Survivor Testifies About Brother's Death

Lance Madison told the jury that he initially believed he and his brother Ronald were shot at by teenagers walking behind them on the bridge. He told the jury he has since changed his mind.

Defense attorneys believe Madison's testimony supports their clients' contention that someone shot at the officers before they began firing.

Read more from our partners at the Times-Picayune.

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July 11, 2011 11:38

No. 2 NOPD Cop Neglected Duty in Henry Glover Case

The NOPD Public Integrity Bureau has found that Deputy Chief Marlon Defillo "neglected his duty" in investigating Henry Glover's death and will hold a disciplinary hearing on July 20. Defillo is the highest ranking officer to face disciplinary charges in the case.

Read more from our partners at the Times-Picayune

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July 11, 2011 11:25

Did Danziger Bridge Defendant Shoot Another Man?

Two former NOPD officers have testified in the Danziger Bridge trial about a separate incident involving defendant Sgt. Robert Gisevius that happened before the shootings on the bridge.

Former officer Ignatius Hills said Gisevius told him he had shot and killed a man who tried to take a truck from him. Former officer Michael Hunter testified that Gisevius told him "some people tried to take the truck from him and he had to empty his magazine to get away." Both Hills and Hunter have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to obstruct justice in the Danziger Bridge case.

Read more from our partners at the Times-Picayune.

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July 7, 2011 12:19

NOPD Officer on Bridge: "I Wanted to Send a Message"

Former NOPD Officer Michael Hunter, who has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to obstruct justice, told the federal jury yesterday that he shot at civilians on the Danziger Bridge to send the following message: "Don't mess with us."

Hunter, who testified for more than seven hours, offered "the most expansive, detailed, eyewitness account" to date in the trial, according to our partners at the Times-Picayune. Read more of their coverage.

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July 6, 2011 10:59

Teenager Describes Danziger Bridge Ordeal

The second week of testimony in the Danziger Bridge case opened with Leonard Bartholomew IV, who told the jury that he was shot at, slapped and kicked by an officer and briefly detained at a makeshift police station before being let go with no money, no shoes and no phone. He was 14 years old at the time.

Bartholomew was the third member of his family to testify at the trial so far. His mother, father, sister and cousin were all shot on the bridge that day.

Later former officer Kevin Bryan, who has pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, testified that he saw Officer Ignatius Hills shoot at Bartholomew. Bryan said he chased down Bartholomew and slapped him in the face, though he denied kicking him.

Read more about yesterday's testimony from our partners at the Times-Picayune.

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July 1, 2011 13:51

First Danziger Bridge Police Shooter Testifies Against Colleagues

On Thursday, Officer Ignatius Hills told the federal jury in the Danziger Bridge case that he shot at 14-year-old Leonard Bartholomew, IV, who was unarmed and fleeing the scene of the police shooting that killed two and wounded four other civilians. Bartholomew was not wounded; his mother Susan, who testified earlier this week, lost her right arm in the incident.

Hills also admitted to participating in a broad cover-up. He said he wrote a police report -- dictated to him by Sgt. Arthur Kaufman, one of the officers on trial -- accusing one of the unarmed civilians of attempting to murder the officers on the bridge that day.

Read more about yesterday's testimony from our partners at the Times-Picayune.

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June 30, 2011 12:03

Danziger Bridge Survivor Describes Being Shot by Police

Jose Holmes Jr. told the jury on Wednesday that after hearing gunshots, he laid down beside a concrete barrier on the Danziger Bridge. "I was kinda thinking if they saw us on the ground, they wouldn't shoot us," he said.

Holmes, who was shot in the arm, jaw and abdomen, testified that there was no provocation or warning from police before the shooting. He was questioned by defense attorneys about changes in his story over the years.

Read more about yesterday's testimony from our partners at the Times-Picayune.

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June 29, 2011 12:49

Officer Testifies Danziger Cover-Up Began Immediately

Lt. Michael Lohman, a former NOPD supervisor testifying for the prosecution in the Danziger Bridge case, said yesterday:


  • that he arrived at the bridge on Sept. 4, 2005 and found no guns near the wounded civilians;

  • that he told officers under his watch to "get their stories straight" after they offered unbelievable explanations for what happened;

  • that he participated in the cover-up because the officers involved were co-workers and friends: "I didn't want to get anyone in trouble";

  • that two draft reports he received from Sgt. Arthur Kaufman were so "poorly written" that he had to write a 17-page false report about the incident himself.

Lohman has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to obstruct justice and faces a maximum of five years in prison. Read more about yesterday's testimony from our partners at the Times-Picayune.

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June 28, 2011 07:56

Danziger Bridge Trial Begins

Susan Bartholomew, who lost her right arm after being shot by New Orleans police officers, was the first prosecution witness to testify in the trial of five NOPD officers, which began on Monday. She recalled lying on the ground on that day and being ordered by the police to raise her hands. "I couldn't do it, because my arm was shot off," she said softly. "I raised the only hand I had."

In their opening statements, attorneys for the officers laid out two main lines of defense: 1) that the shooting was justified and 2) that jurors must take the chaotic conditions of Hurricane Katrina into account when considering the officers' actions. "This case is not about whether or not members of the Bartholomew group had guns or not. It's whether these officers reasonably believed these people had guns," said Timothy Meche, attorney for former officer Anthony Villavaso. "Things are happening so fast. It's not a video game. It's not a slow-motion movie."

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June 24, 2011 11:01

Danziger Bridge Jury Seated

The trial is expected to start on Monday, with Susan Bartholomew, one of the shooting survivors, scheduled as the prosecution's first witness. Our partners at the Times-Picayune have more details on the jury's makeup here.

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June 20, 2011 11:57

Danziger Bridge Trial Begins Wednesday

More than five years after six civilians were shot on New Orleans' Danziger Bridge in the days following Hurricane Katrina, a federal trial is set to begin for five New Orleans police officers accused of participating in the shooting and ensuing cover-up.

Our partners at the Times-Picayune revisit the twists and turns in the case over the years in this story, and reporter Laura Maggi profiles two of the shooting victims here.

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May 4, 2011 14:50

New Trial for Officer Convicted in Henry Glover Case

Today, a judge ordered a new trial for former NOPD officer Travis McCabe, who was convicted of writing a false police report to justify the shooting of Henry Glover. Glover was shot by another officer, David Warren, in the days following Hurricane Katrina; a third officer, Greg McRae, admitted to setting the car containing Glover's body on fire. In March, Warren and McRae were sentenced to more than 25 years and more than 16 years in prison, respectively.

Following McCabe's December 2010 conviction, an earlier draft surfaced of the report he was convicted of altering. Based on this new evidence, Judge Lance Africk ruled that McCabe was entitled to a new trial.

Read more from our partners at the Times-Picayune.

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March 31, 2011 14:19

2 NOPD Officers Sentenced in Henry Glover Case

Today former New Orleans Police Officer David Warren was sentenced to more than 25 years in prison for the shooting of Henry Glover, while former Officer Greg McRae, who admitted to burning the car containing Glover's body, was sentenced to more than 16 years.

Judge Lance Africk delivered "stern speeches" to both men before handing down their sentences, according to our partners at the Times-Picayune. He called Warren's claim that Glover had charged at him "spurious" and described McRae's actions as "barbaric" and "unforgivable."

A third former officer, Travis McCabe, was convicted of writing a false police report on the shooting. His sentencing has been postponed, pending a hearing on new evidence uncovered by his lawyers.

The shooting of Henry Glover and burning of his body was one of six cases of questionable police shootings in the wake of Hurricane Katrina that we've been investigating since December 2009 along with our partners at ProPublica and Times-Picayune. To date, more than a dozen officers have been indicted, and a federal investigation has found "systemic" civil rights violations by the NOPD.

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March 17, 2011 18:44

Feds Find "Systemic" Civil Rights Violations by NOPD

Today the Justice Department released a 158-page report stating the NOPD "has been largely indifferent to widespread violations of law and policy by its officers."

According to ProPublica's A.C. Thompson the DOJ report describes the NOPD as "a department with deep-rooted, comprehensive flaws that extend beyond a small number of cops." Read more...

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February 9, 2011 11:11

Officer Asks Court to Overturn Conviction in Glover Case

Lawyers for NOPD Lt. Travis McCabe say they've uncovered new evidence and have asked a judge to overturn their client's conviction in the Henry Glover case. McCabe was convicted of creating a false police report and lying about it to federal investigators.

The new evidence is a draft police report, written by another officer, which largely matches the final report introduced at the trial. The prosecution had argued that McCabe had significantly altered the final report.

Read more from our partners at the Times-Picayune.

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January 7, 2011 11:22

NOPD Asks For, Receives Extension in Internal Investigation

Yesterday, the NOPD was granted a 60-day extension to complete its internal investigation into the conduct of several officers during the Henry Glover case and cover-up. Five officers were suspended and six were reassigned in the wake of the Glover trial. Their attorneys had argued that senior NOPD officials were aware of the allegations of officer misconduct years ago and any investigations should have occurred then.

Read more from our partners at the Times-Picayune.

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December 29, 2010 14:16

Law & Disorder -- One Year Later

In December 2009, FRONTLINE, ProPublica and the Times-Picayune launched our joint investigation into six cases of questionable police shootings in the days after Hurricane Katrina. The federal government is investigating all six cases and more than a dozen officers have since been charged. Read a wrap-up of what's happened over the past year from ProPublica's Sabrina Shankman here.

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December 28, 2010 11:02

Inside the Henry Glover Jury Room

Why did they convict three and acquit two NOPD officers in the Henry Glover trial? Did they believe those they acquitted were guilty? Why was former officer David Warren convicted of manslaughter instead of murder? And how did they feel about the so-called "Katrina defense"? Read Times-Picayune reporter Brendan McCarthy's interview with four of the Glover jurors...

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December 17, 2010 14:20

NOPD Chief Reassigns 6 Veteran Officers in Wake of Glover Verdict

Yesterday, Chief Ronal Serpas placed six veteran officers on desk duty while the NOPD conducts an internal investigation into violations of department rules. "After receiving a briefing this week by federal authorities regarding the death of Henry Glover, I am presently not comfortable in the ability of these individuals to professionally carry out their police duties as members, or leaders, of this police department pending our full investigative review," he said in a statement.

One of the officers who was reassigned was Capt. Jeff Winn, who testified he ordered Lt. Dwayne Scheuermann and Officer Greg McRae to remove Glover's body from the makeshift police compound at Habans Elementary School. Winn told the jury that it wasn't until early 2009 that he learned McRae had burned the car containing Glover's body. McRae was convicted last week of burning Glover's body; Scheuermann was acquitted. Capt. Winn and Lt. Scheuermann were also involved in another case we're looking at -- the shooting of Keenon McCann.

Read more about the other officers who were reassigned from our partners at the Times-Picayune.

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December 13, 2010 13:04

"There Were No Serpicos. There Were No Whistleblowers."

On Friday, the PBS Newshour's Hari Sreenivasan spoke with ProPublica reporter A.C. Thompson about the verdict in the Glover trial. According to Thompson, federal pressure on the NOPD was a key turning point in the story, which he first reported on in 2008. Thompson also explains that the story of what happened to Henry Glover really needed to be pieced together through documents and interviews with witnesses. "There was nobody who came forward and said, 'Hey, I'm going to give you all the information about what happened.'" In this clip, Sreenivasan also speaks to local news anchor Wayne Carter for local reaction to the verdict.

Three NOPD officers were convicted of shooting Glover, burning his body and filing a false police report about the incident; two officers were acquitted.

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December 11, 2010 09:54

In Wake of Glover Verdict, What's Next for New Orleans' Troubled Police Force

"I've been reporting in New Orleans for more than three years, and I can say I've never encountered more people who are terrified of the police. Looking at the sad and awful death of Henry Glover, it's easy to see why."

Click here to read ProPublica reporter A.C. Thompson's reflection and analysis of the Glover verdict. In 2008, Thompson's initial investigation story of Glover's death sparked the federal investigation into the case.

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December 9, 2010 22:00

3 NOPD Officers Guilty, 2 Acquitted in Glover verdict

After three days of deliberations a federal jury found three NOPD officers guilty and acquitted two others in the shooting of Henry Glover, the burning of his body and the ensuing cover-up.

Former officer David Warren was convicted of manslaughter for shooting Glover. Officer Greg McRae was convicted of civil rights violations and obstruction of justice in the burning of Glover's body. Lt. Travis McCabe was convicted of obstruction of justice for writing a false police report, perjury and lying to federal investigators.

Officer McRae and Lt. Dwayne Scheuermann were acquitted of beating two men who tried to help Glover after he was shot. Lt. Scheuermann and retired Lt. Robert Italiano were also acquitted of participating in the burning of Glover's body and Lt. Italiano was acquitted of making false statements to federal investigators.

Read more about the verdicts from our partners at ProPublica and the Times-Picayune.

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December 7, 2010 08:57

Jury Deliberations Begin Today in the Henry Glover Trial

Yesterday during closing arguments, prosecutors argued that the five officers on trial for the shooting of Henry Glover, burning of his body and alleged cover-up exhibited "tremendous abuse and corruption of power."

Defense attorneys argued that prosecutors failed to demonstrate the officers acted with criminal intent and also asked jurors to take into account the post-Katrina conditions under which the police were operating.

Read more details of the closing arguments from our partners at the Times-Picayune.

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December 6, 2010 13:30

Closing Arguments Today in Glover Trial

Testimony ended Friday in the trial of five officers charged with shooting Henry Glover, burning his body and allegedly covering up the crime. Prosecutors called a few witnesses for rebuttal testimony, and the case is expected to go to the jury on Tuesday.

Read more about Friday's testimony from our partners at the Times-Picayune.

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December 3, 2010 18:01

Officer Denies Writing False Report

Yesterday, Lt. Travis McCabe, accused of writing a false police report in the Henry Glover case and lying to federal investigators, repeatedly testified that he merely served as a typist and that the information in the report came from another officer, Sgt. Purnella Simmons, whose name is on the report in question. Simmons testified earlier for the prosecution that her report had been changed. McCabe also accused federal investigators of twisting his words after he agreed to voluntary interviews.

Also yesterday, Detective Catherine Beckett testified on behalf of former Lt. Robert Italiano, saying that a colleague told her she lied to the federal grand jury investigating the case because she didn't like Italiano.

Read more from our colleagues at the Times-Picayune.

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December 2, 2010 06:38

Officer Says He Wasn't Given Information to Link Glover Shooting & Burning

Yesterday Lt. Robert Italiano, who is charged with writing a false police report and lying to federal investigators, testified that he wasn't given the information to link Henry Glover's shooting by a police officer to the reports of a dead body who arrived at makeshift NOPD headquarters at Habans Elementary School shortly afterward.

"From the get go, my conclusion, I know (now) that was wrong. Some of that belongs to me," Italiano said on the stand. "But through the course of this trial, I've learned that several people withheld information from me that would have made a difference in what my actions would have been."

Italiano also said that he didn't remember many of the conversations government witnesses testified they had with him or that he remembered those conversations differently.

Read more of the details from yesterday's testimony from our partners at the Times-Picayune.

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December 1, 2010 16:28

Officer Sentenced to 8 Years in Danziger Bridge Case

Today Officer Michael Hunter -- the first NOPD officer to plead guilty in the notorious Danziger Bridge shooting in which two unarmed civilians were killed and four wounded -- was sentenced to the maximum of eight years in prison. If he testifies against other officers, as expected, he will be eligible to have his sentence reduced.

Hunter pleaded guilty in April to obstruction of justice and acknowledged participating in a cover-up of the shooting. In court, Hunter apologized to the families of those killed and wounded on the bridge that day for "not having the courage" to come forward sooner.

Read more from our partners at the Times-Picayune.

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December 1, 2010 09:35

Scheuermann: Surprised McRae Torched Car with Glover's Body

Yesterday Officer Dwayne Scheuermann took to the stand to testify in his own defense; he is accused of civil rights violations in the death of Henry Glover, as well as obstructing a federal investigation.

Scheuermann said he had no idea that Officer Greg McRae was going to torch the car containing Glover's body. He testified that after the car containing Glover's body arrived at Habans Elementary School, he checked and saw that Glover was dead. He said he didn't know Glover had been shot by another officer until 2008, after A.C. Thompson's first story about Glover was published in The Nation.

On cross-examination, prosecutors questioned Scheuermann about discrepancies between his and other officers' accounts of what happened. The judge did not allow prosecutors to bring up prior complaints about Scheuermann (which have all been classified as "unsustained" by NOPD investigators) or to question Scheuermann about his shooting of Keenon McCann the day before Glover's death. McCann survived; Scheuermann was cleared of any wrongdoing by an internal NOPD investigation into McCann's shooting.

Read more about yesterday's testimony from our partners at the Times-Picayune.

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November 30, 2010 11:01

Officer Torched Car Because He Was Stressed, Exhausted

"I had seen enough bodies," Officer Greg McRae testified yesterday, explaining why he set fire to the car containing Henry Glover's body. "I had seen enough rot."

McRae told the court that Capt. Jeff Winn said that the police had to move Glover's body away from NOPD makeshift headquarters at Habans Elementary School. As he drove away in William Tanner's car, McRae said he made up his mind that he was going to burn the body. He testified that he drove the car deep into the woods, got out, leaving the engine running, lit a flare and threw it into the vehicle. As he walked away, McRae said he realized the air conditioning might have snuffed out the flare, so he fired his handgun into the car's rear window.

Read more about McRae's testimony from our partners at the Times-Picayune.

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November 24, 2010 11:25

Warren Testifies He Shot Glover Because He Feared for His Life

Charged with civil rights violations for shooting Henry Glover, Officer David Warren took the stand yesterday to testify in his own defense. He told the jury that he thought he saw a weapon in Glover's hand and that he fired after Glover and his companion disobeyed his order to "get back." "Let me be very plain," he said. "I was concerned for my life. I was concerned for my partner. I was concerned about going home to my family."

Read more about yesterday's testimony from our colleagues at the Times-Picayune.

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November 23, 2010 11:26

FBI Agent: Officer Lied to Investigators

Yesterday, FBI Agent Ashley Johnson testified that Lt. Travis McCabe, who is accused of writing a fabricated police report, repeatedly changed his story during the federal investigation of Henry Glover's death. In July 2009, McCabe told Johnson that he authored "100 percent" of the report; that same month, while testifying in front of the federal grand jury, he said his partner, Sgt. Purnella Simmons, was "the one responsible for the contents of this report."

Read more about this and yesterday's other testimony from our partners at the Times-Picayune.

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November 20, 2010 09:38

Officer Testifies About Changes to Glover Police Report

Yesterday, Sgt. Purnella Simmons took the stand to testify about alleged changes to the police report she wrote about the shooting of Henry Glover.

Simmons told the jury that her original report included a statement from Officer Linda Howard -- the partner of Officer David Warren, who is accused of shooting Glover -- in which Howard said she did not believe the shooting was justified. Officers Robert Italiano and Travis McCabe are accused of writing the false police report that prosecutors say replaced Simmons' original report.

Over the years, Simmons repeatedly claimed that she had written the altered report -- including in front of the federal grand jury investigating Glover's death. After her initial grand jury testimony, she hired an attorney and testified again, acknowledging she had lied. Defense attorneys questioned Simmons about the inconsistencies in her testimony.

Read more about yesterday's testimony from our partners at the Times-Picayune.

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November 19, 2010 11:11

Colleague: Officer McRae Laughed After Torching Car

Yesterday a fellow officer testified that he saw Officer Greg McRae laughing as he ran away from a car he had just set fire to -- the car with Henry Glover's body inside. McRae's lawyer has admitted his client burned the car but argues that he made "a very bad decision" under stress.

Read more about yesterday's testimony from our colleagues at the Times-Picayune.

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November 18, 2010 08:40

Officer Testifies She Connected the Dots in Glover Case, Didn't Say Anything

Yesterday, the federal jury heard testimony from NOPD Officer Keyalah Bell, who was one of the first officers to arrive at the scene of Henry Glover's shooting. She said that she later saw a wounded man at Habans Elementary School, whom she figured was Glover, and that she was among the first to receive missing person reports from Glover's family. When she told her supervisor, Lt. Robert Italiano, who is charged with filing false police reports, he suggested she tell the family to "Check the morgue." She said she never said anything because she feared becoming a "bull's-eye" for retribution by her colleagues.

Bell was one of six officers that testified in the trial yesterday. Two others testified that they saw events related to the Glover case but initially lied to federal investigators because they feared retaliation. Defense attorneys questioned inconsistencies in Bell's story over the years and are expected to continue cross-examination today.

Read more from our partners at the Times-Picayune.

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November 11, 2010 10:33

Officer Testifies Her Partner Shot Henry Glover

Yesterday, the prosecution and defense gave their opening arguments in the trial of five NOPD officers accused in the death of Henry Glover. NOPD Officer Linda Howard told a federal jury that her former partner, David Warren, shot Glover, and an attorney for Officer Greg McRae acknowledged that his client set fire to the car containing Glover's body. Here are some details from yesterday's testimony:

  • Officer Linda Howard testified that her partner, Officer David Warren, yelled out a "loud command" and then fired his personal assault rifle at Henry Glover as he was running away from the strip mall where Howard and Warren were stationed after the storm. "I didn't hit him," Warren said, according to her testimony. Julian Murray, Warren's attorney, disputed Howard's depiction of events and said that Warren feared for his life. Murray also questioned why Howard told another police detective in 2009 that she didn't recall seeing the shooting. Howard said that she had suppressed her memories of the incident in the years after the storm and it wasn't until she later visited the scene that she began having flashbacks.
  • Frank DeSalvo, attorney for Officer Greg McRae, acknowledged that his client drove the car with Glover's body to a levee, lit a flare, tossed it into the car, fired a gun through the back windshield and walked away. "He made a bad decision in burning that body," DeSalvo said of his client, but the attorney maintained the act was not illegal and asked the jury to consider the frame of mind of McRae, whom he described as a "desk jockey" dealing with countless dead bodies after Katrina.

Read more about yesterday's testimony from our partners at the Times-Picayune...

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November 9, 2010 11:48

Jury Selection Begins in Glover Trial

Prospective jurors were questioned yesterday in the trial of five officers accused in the shooting of Henry Glover, the ensuing burning of his body and an alleged police cover-up. According to our partners at the Times-Picayune, opening statements should begin today after the 12 jurors and four alternates are chosen, and the trial is expected to last 4 weeks.

The Times-Pic reports that jurors were questioned about whether they had seen any news about the case or whether they or any of their immediate family members stayed in their homes during Hurricane Katrina. Read more...

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November 8, 2010 13:48

Trial Begins for 5 Officers in Henry Glover Case

Today, the federal trial begins for five NOPD officers charged in the shooting of Henry Glover and alleged cover-up of his death. Our partners at the Times-Picayune have a preview of the prosecution and defense strategies. Read more...

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September 30, 2010 16:34

Two Officers Charged in Danny Brumfield Case

Today, the feds charged officers Ronald Mitchell and Ray Jones with obstruction of justice and perjury for allegedly lying under oath while testifying in a civil lawsuit brought by Danny Brumfield's family.

Brumfield died outside the Convention Center after being shot by Officer Mitchell; Mitchell claims that Brumfield lunged at him with a shiny object in his hand, while Brumfield's family maintains he was trying to wave down the officers for help. Neither officer was charged with the shooting itself.

Prosecutors say that Mitchell knew that Brumfield didn't have a shiny object and that Jones lied when he said the officers stopped their car to check Brumfield's pulse after the shooting.

Read more from our partners in the Times-Picayune...

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September 22, 2010 22:47

Three-Year Sentence for Danziger Bridge Officer

Having pleaded guilty in March for his role in orchestrating the cover up of the shooting on the Danziger Bridge, former NOPD officer Jeffrey Lehrmann was sentenced Wednesday to the maximum of three years in federal prison. U.S. District Court Judge Lance Africk described the Danziger incident as a "disgrace of immense proportion."

To date, 11 officers have been charged in the Danziger Bridge case; five are cooperating with federal authorities. Lehrmann is the first to be sentenced. Read more from our partners at the Times-Picayune...

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September 7, 2010 10:43

Does Statute of Limitations Mean Fed Probes Wrapping Up?

Our partners at the Times-Picayune are reporting that the federal investigations of two of the cases we're following -- Case One, Mystery on Religious Street and Case Four, the shooting of Keenon McCann -- may be impacted by a five-year statute of limitations. Though FBI Agent Sheila Thorne told the paper that all of their nine active investigations are open and ongoing, legal experts say that prosecutors prefer to bring cases within the five-year time frame.

Cases Two and Three, the shooting deaths of Matthew McDonald and Danny Brumfield, do not face the same deadline because they involve deaths. And officers that have pled guilty in Case Six, the Danziger Bridge shootings, have described a long-running cover-up, which would extend the time in which prosecutors could bring charges.

Read more from the Times-Picayune...

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September 3, 2010 11:30

Was Race a Factor in Henry Glover's Shooting?

From our partners at the Times-Picayune -- federal prosecutors say that two of the officers accused in the shooting death of Henry Glover and alleged cover-up were involved in "unrelated, racially tinged incidents" in the days before Glover's death.

According to court filings, Officer David Warren, whom prosecutors have charged with shooting Glover, allegedly fired a shot over the head of a black man walking nearby on the morning of Sept. 2 -- the day Glover died.

And in another filing, prosecutors say Officer Greg McRae -- who has been charged with beating the companions who brought Glover to the police compound at Habans Elementary School and setting fire to the car containing Glover's body -- pointed a gun at a black man who had come to the police compound days earlier and told him, "Get back before I shoot your black ass."

Read the story in the Times-Picayune.

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August 26, 2010 23:50

Feds Looking Into Whether NOPD Issued Orders to Shoot Looters

Our partners at the Times-Picayune are reporting that federal officials are looking into allegations that top NOPD officials issued orders authorizing officers to shoot looter after Katrina.

"In response to the printed and televised interviews published, I have been contacted by federal authorities who have initiated a review and inquiry into this matter," NOPD Chief Ronal Serpas said in a prepared statement. Read more...

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August 24, 2010 20:43

After Katrina, New Orleans Cops Were Told They Could Shoot Looters

By Sabrina Shankman and Tom Jennings of FRONTLINE, Brendan McCarthy and Laura Maggi of The New Orleans Times-Picayune and A.C. Thompson of ProPublica

In the chaotic days after Hurricane Katrina, an order circulated among New Orleans police authorizing officers to shoot looters, according to present and former members of the New Orleans Police Department.

It's not clear how broadly the order was communicated. Some officers who heard it say they refused to carry it out. Others say they understood it as a fundamental change in the standards on deadly force, which allow police to fire only to protect themselves or others from what appears to be an imminent physical threat.

The accounts of orders to "shoot looters," "take back the city," or "do what you have to do" are fragmentary. It remains unclear who originated them or whether they were heard by any of the officers involved in shooting 11 civilians in the days after Katrina. Thus far, no officers implicated in shootings have used the order as an explanation for their actions. Only one of the people shot by police -- Henry Glover -- was allegedly stealing goods at the time he was shot.

Still, current and former officers said the police orders -- taken together with tough talk from top public officials broadcast over the airwaves -- contributed to an atmosphere of confusion about how much force could be used to combat looting.

In one instance captured on a grainy videotape shot by a member of the force, a police captain relayed the instructions at morning roll call to cops preparing for the day's patrols.

"We have authority by martial law to shoot looters," Captain James Scott told a few dozen officers in a portion of the tape viewed by reporters. Scott, then the commander of the 1st district, is now captain of the special operations division.

Another police captain, Harry Mendoza, told federal prosecutors last month that he was ordered by Warren Riley, then the department's second-in-command, to "take the city back and shoot looters." A lieutenant who worked for Mendoza, Mike Cahn III, said he remembered the scene similarly and would testify about it under oath if asked.

Mendoza and Cahn said in separate interviews that Riley made the remarks at a meeting at Harrah's casino, where police had established a command post. Mendoza quoted Riley as saying: "If you can sleep with it, do it," according to a document prepared by prosecutors and provided to lawyers defending police officers recently charged with federal offenses.

Riley categorically denied telling officers they could shoot looters. "I didn't say anything like that. I heard rumors that someone else said that. But I certainly didn't say that, no."

"I may have said we need to take control of the city," Riley said. "That may have happened."

Riley also questioned the credibility of Mendoza, whom he fired in 2006 for alleged neglect of duties. Mendoza has since been reinstated; Riley has retired.

Scott declined comment but said through his attorney that a fuller version of the videotape places his remarks in a different context. But he would not disclose what else he said that day or characterize more completely what he meant.

The officer who shot the video, Lt. Sandra Simpson, would not permit reporters to see the complete recording. New Orleans police officials have said that they do not consider the tape a public record and that it is thus up to Simpson whether to allow the tape to be viewed.

Scott's address came at a moment of widespread confusion over whether authorities had imposed martial law, a phrase used by then-Mayor Ray Nagin on the radio. In fact, martial law does not exist under Louisiana's constitution. But experts in police training said the use of those words by politicians and in news reports may have fueled perceptions that the rules had changed.

In recent months, a team of reporters from The Times-Picayune, PBS FRONTLINE, and ProPublica have examined department leaders' conduct as part of a broader look at police shootings after Hurricane Katrina. A documentary drawn from that work airs Wednesday evening on FRONTLINE.

The confusion over whether martial law had been declared was widely reported at the time. But until now, it was not known that some within the police force interpreted it to authorize shooting of looters who posed no direct threat.

New Orleans police came under unprecedented pressures after the city flooded. Many of the department's police stations were submerged in water. The command structure broke down as the radio system and computerized communications failed. Officers went for days without sleep as they rescued trapped residents from rooftops. Commanders relied on sporadic face-to-face meetings to direct operations.

"During the Katrina days, we weren't living in the real world, we were living in a holocaust," said former police Lt. David Benelli, who was assigned to the Superdome and has since retired. "We were living in a situation that no other police department ever had to endure."

***

A mix of rumor and reality fueled concerns about the breakdown of civil order.

Nagin, the mayor, said in a televised interview days after the storm that there had been rapes and murders among the people taking shelter in the Superdome, a claim that turned out to be untrue. Police Superintendent Eddie Compass made similar statements.

On Aug. 30, 2005, Riley told the mayor he had heard an officer say on the radio, "I need more ammo. We need more ammo."

Sally Forman, the mayor's communications chief at the time, said this report -- which, it later emerged, did not come from NOPD -- had immediate impact.

Nagin, she recalled, directed Riley to "stop search and rescue and bring our force back to controlling the streets."

"The mayor said, 'Let's stop the looting, let's stop the lawlessness and let's put our police officers on the streets so that our citizens are protected,'" Forman said.

Nagin had one more message for the deputy superintendent, in Forman's recollection: "Let's stop this crap now."

"We will do that," responded Riley, according to Forman.

That same day, Nagin learned that a police officer, Kevin Thomas, had been shot in the head. Forman said "it made the mayor furious.''

"And that's when he said we need to declare martial law.''

Soon after, Nagin gave a radio interview in which he said he had called for martial law, adding to the confusion about the rules of engagement. Nagin declined to be interviewed.

***

Accounts vary of the meeting outside Harrah's at which Riley delivered his remarks. Some recall Riley speaking to a small group of senior officers; others remember it as a larger gathering.

Cahn, who reported to Mendoza during the storm, said the order was delivered on Aug. 31, the day after officer Thomas was wounded. Mendoza thought the instructions were given either Aug. 31 or Sept. 1.

Cahn, who is still a reserve lieutenant, said: "It was in Harrah's parking lot. We were having our morning meeting - the captains and their lieutenants were there. And Riley said, "It's time to take the city back. I'm giving you instructions to tell your men to shoot all looters."

"It was such an almost ridiculous order that Mendoza and I said there was no way that we were going to tell our guys that. You can't just decide arbitrarily that you're going to start shooting people for stealing things.

"For a commanding officer to tell you that I'm giving you this order - it's easy to think that officers would have taken that and run with it."

Mendoza, who is now in charge of the police academy, said he described the meeting at Harrah's to a group of federal prosecutors studying the department's training programs.

In an interview, Mendoza expanded on his statement to prosecutors. He said Riley arrived in the morning and asked all the police operating from Harrah's to gather beneath the casino's canopy. He estimated that 30 to 50 people were present.

Mendoza said he was "shocked" by the order to shoot looters and believed it might have confused less experienced officers. The remarks, he said, "could have easily damaged their understanding and ability to clearly recognize their responsibilities and follow state law."

Two current officers and one former officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, also remember Riley telling officers at Harrah's that they could shoot looters.

All quote Riley as speaking of the need to "take the city back." Like Mendoza and Cahn, they say they decided not to pass on the order.

Riley strongly denied issuing such an edict. "I absolutely deny it; it absolutely never happened," he said. As for Mendoza, he said: "I despise that guy. I fired him. I don't know where he's getting that foolishness from."

Kevin Diel, a former officer, said he saw Riley address a group of 40 to 50 officers at Harrah's on Sept. 2 or Sept. 3. Riley "walked up in a pair of blue jeans, his uniform shirt and a ball cap, and really just starting giving a pep speech, you know, kind of a morale-booster, saying that we were not gonna allow the looters to take the city," Diel recalled. "We were going to more or less protect the borders of it and march through downtown and take the city back."

Diel did not recall Riley explicitly saying that officers could shoot looters. After Riley left, Diel said, cops began analyzing the orders, and some wondered aloud whether the deputy superintendent expected officers to "go through the streets, you know, shooting looters?"

***

Experts said that even instructing officers to "take back the city" - the order Riley acknowledges giving - was dangerously ambiguous.

"Just sending out a general order, general statement about 'take back the city' with no specific guidelines is an invitation to disaster," said Samuel Walker, professor emeritus at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and author of 13 books on police, civil liberties, and criminal justice. "What do the officers think? We can do anything?"

Under standards set by the U.S. Supreme Court, Louisiana law and police department guidelines, officers are allowed to use deadly force when they have a reasonable belief there is a threat of "great bodily harm" to either the officer or another person.

"A statement, explicit or implied, that you take back the city and do whatever needs to be done is absolutely wrong, [a] complete invitation to disaster," he said.

It remains unclear whether the orders have any direct link to the shootings of civilians.

On Sept 3, 2005, a 1st District officer shot Matt McDonald in the back, killing the man. The officer said McDonald, a 41-year-old drifter, ignored orders to let go of a white plastic bag containing a handgun, which he allegedly brandished at police. McDonald's relatives are skeptical of the account.

Bryant Wininger, the narcotics squad lieutenant who shot McDonald, has since retired. He declined to respond to questions or to address whether he was present for Scott's statements about martial law and the shooting of looters.

***

It's also unclear what role the orders to shoot looters might play in the federal trials against officers accused of shooting unarmed civilians.

The lawyer for David Warren, the police officer who shot Henry Glover, said Warren had not heard the order.

But the lawyer, Michael Ellis, said the order was emblematic of the chaos of that time frame. When Warren fired his .223 rifle at Glover, he had just spent the night standing guard over a man charged with attacking Kevin Thomas, his fellow officer.

"He was guarding the defendant who had shot Kevin,'' Ellis said. "He looked through the window and could see that Oakwood Shopping Center was in flames and being looted by vandals, and all that goes into the equation of his mindset of the moment that he fired his weapon."

Defense attorneys representing two of the officers charged in the shooting of six civilians at the Danziger Bridge said their defenses will largely center on the contention that the shootings were justified -- that officers believed they were under fire.

"They weren't shooting looters. They were shooting at people who they thought were shooting at them," said Lindsay Larson III, one of the attorneys representing former officer Robert Faulcon.

Frank DeSalvo, attorney for Sgt. Kenneth Bowen, also accused of shooting people on the eastern side of the bridge, agreed. "Certainly, no one's defense is that martial law had been declared and we should shoot looters. They did what they did based upon what they were faced with at the time they arrived at the bridge," he said.

But DeSalvo left open the possibility that he would use Mendoza's statement, perhaps as a way to explain the environment in which officers were forced to make decisions.

"That is part of the information that they had with respect to the lawlessness in the city. People being shot and being raped. Supposed armed gangs of people running around shooting people," DeSalvo said. "It is relevant with how the fear was running through the department that a chief would say that. When he says, we have to take our streets back, that is what we are talking about. The streets had been taken away by armed gangs."

ProPublica's Lisa Schwartz, Sheelagh McNeill and Nicholas Kusnetz contributed to this report.

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August 14, 2010 10:36

Justice Dept. Investigating Religious St. Beatings

The Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation and has begun calling witnesses to testify before a federal grand jury about Case One, the Sept. 1, 2005 incident in which two men were allegedly beaten by NOPD officers. On Sunday, FRONTLINE, ProPublica and The Times-Picayune published Robert Williams' account of what happened that day -- he says he and his friend Ernest "Ricky" Bell were brutally beaten by NOPD officers, who thought the men had been involved in a shootout with police moments earlier.

According to the Times-Picayune, there are at least nine civil rights investigations of the NOPD currently underway. Read more...

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August 11, 2010 11:00

Officers Being Investigated in Danny Brumfield's Death

NOPD officers Ronald Mitchell and Ray Jones have received letters indicating they are targets in the federal investigation into the shooting death of Danny Brumfield in the days after Katrina, our partners at the Times-Picayune are reporting today. Officer Mitchell fired a single shot that killed Brumfield, but the events leading up to the incident are in dispute; the police say Brumfield leaped onto the hood of a police car brandishing a pair of scissors, while his family says he was trying to flag down officers for help when he was struck by the car.

The feds opened up their investigation into the incident after ProPublica, the Times-Picayune and FRONTLINE reported on Brumfield's death in December 2009, and the letters sent to Mitchell and Jones indicates that the probe may be nearing completion. Read more...

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August 7, 2010 14:53

Is This What Happened on Religious Street?

It appears that some of the questions surrounding Case One -- "Mystery on Religious Street" -- may have been answered. It turns out the two men featured in the photographs -- which we first published in December 2009 -- are alive and they're telling their story. In the video below, Robert Williams alleges he and his friend Ernest "Ricky" Bell were brutally beaten by NOPD officers, who thought the men had been involved in a shootout with police moments earlier.

Williams tells Times-Picayune reporter Gordon Russell that he and Bell had stolen a limousine that day, Sept. 1, 2005, in an attempt to get out of the flooded city. But they didn't get very far before they were pulled over by police, who, according to Williams, told them they matched the description of some suspects who had been shooting at police from a nearby building.

Williams says that the two men -- who have criminal records, though neither has been booked with any offenses involving gun violence -- were savagely beaten and sprayed with mace. Williams' eyes were swollen shut and several teeth were kicked out. Bell says seven to 11 officers were involved and that the beating left him with internal bleeding.

Learn more about how Russell tracked down the two men by exploring our multimedia feature on the case, or read Russell's story in today's Times-Picayune.

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July 16, 2010 00:26

Civil Rights Charges in Post-Katrina Vigilante Shooting

On Thursday, federal hate crimes charges were filed against Roland Bourgeois, Jr. for his alleged role in the racially motivated shooting of Donnell Herrington and two other men in New Orleans' Algiers Point neighborhood in the days after Katrina.

In April, FRONTLINE, ProPublica and the Times-Picayune first identified Bourgeois as the shooter in the case, when we reported the story of Terri Benjamin, a witness to the incident.

Benjamin, who lived Algiers Point at the time and saw the vigilante activity firsthand, described in dramatic detail how she saw Bourgeois and several others celebrating -- "hootin' and hollerin'." They said they had shot an African American male. But one of the vigilantes reported back -- the man wasn't dead yet. Bourgeois set off with his shotgun to finish the job, Benjamin says.

In 2009, Herrington told FRONTLINE what happened to him the night of Sept. 1, 2005. He had been fleeing his damaged home, heading to a designated evacuation zone, a ferry terminal on the river. To get there he had to go through Algiers Point.

Accompanied by a cousin and friend, Herrington had barely crossed into Algiers Point when he suddenly felt the pain of a spray of hot lead in his back and neck. He had been shot from behind with a shotgun.

Herrington's story was first reported by ProPublica and The Nation in December 2008, and the story sparked the federal investigation.

UPDATE (Aug. 13, 2010) -- On Aug. 12, Bourgeois pleaded not guilty on all counts. A trial date was set for early October; until then the judge ordered that Bourgeois, who is gravely ill, be confined at home.

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July 15, 2010 11:43

Law & Disorder on PBS Newshour

Last night, PBS Newshour featured an overview of the latest indictments in the Danziger Bridge case and an interview with ProPublica reporter A.C. Thompson. Watch below.

Also on Wednesday, three of the officers -- Sgt. Robert Gisevius, Officer Kenneth Bowen and Officer Anthony Villavaso -- pleaded not guilty to the charges against them. Read more...

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July 13, 2010 18:16

Six Additional Officers Indicted in Danziger Case

Today a federal grand jury indicted six current and former NOPD officers for their roles in the shootings on the Danziger Bridge and the conspiracy to cover up what happened. To date, 11 officers have been charged and three have pleaded guilty.

Sgt. Kenneth Bowen, Sgt. Robert Gisevius, former Officer Robert Faulcon and Officer Anthony Villavaso were each charged with a civil rights violation in the shooting death of 19-year-old James Brisette, as well as for injuring several members of the Bartholomew family.

Faulcon and Bowen were also charged with civil rights violations in the death of Ronald Madison; Faulcon was charged with killing the mentally disabled man, who was shot in the back, and Bowen was accused of kicking and stomping on Madison's body after he had been shot.

Sgt. Arthur Kaufman and former Sgt. Gerard Dugue were accused, along with Bowen, Gisevius, Faulcon and Villavaso, with participating in the cover-up, conspiracy to obstruct justice and making false statements to investigators.

The indictments were announced by Attorney General Eric Holder. Read more...

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June 28, 2010 18:27

Attorney: Warren the "Patsy" in Glover's Death

Joseph Albe, the attorney for former NOPD officer David Warren, told a Christian radio program that his client was not responsible for the death of Henry Glover and that he played no role in any cover-up.

"The people who were responsible for the death of Glover have made Dave the patsy ... saying, 'We are covering your back, ' when actually they are holding him out like a sacrificial lamb," Albe said in an interview with the program "Politically Correct."

Two weeks ago Warren was charged in federal court with fatally shooting Glover. Read more...

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June 11, 2010 16:20

5 Officers Indicted in Henry Glover Death

Today a grand jury indicted five NOPD officers for their roles in the Sept. 2, 2005 death of Henry Glover. Glover was shot and a burned-out car containing his remains was found by the Algiers levee. The video below was shot on Sept. 9, 2005 by private investigators who stumbled upon the scene.

Read the indictment (PDF). Among the charges:
- Former Officer David Warren was charged with shooting and killing Glover.
- Lt. Dwayne Scheuermann and Officer Greg McRae were charged with assaulting civilians who had come to Glover's aid, burning the car containing Glover's body and obstructing a federal investigation
- Former Lt. Robert Italiano and Lt. Travis McCabe were charged with obstructing justice and lying to the FBI. McCabe was also charged with lying to a grand jury.

Federal investigators began looking into the circumstances surrounding Glover's death following a December 2008 article in The Nation magazine by ProPublica reporter A.C. Thompson. Explore our case file on Glover's death here.

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June 9, 2010 12:36

Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed in Glover Case

Yesterday, the mother of Henry Glover's 13-year-old son filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of her child. According to our partners at the Times-Picayune the suit alleges that "police were negligent, used excessive force in shooting Glover, failed to provide him with medical treatment and later mishandled his corpse." Read more ...

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May 27, 2010 14:12

First Detailed Account of What Happened to Henry Glover

Our partners at the Times-Picayune have gotten a copy of an unfinished police report investigating the circumstances surrounding Henry Glover's death. In the days after Katrina, Glover's remains were found in an incinerated car parked along a levee in New Orleans' Algiers neighborhood.

According to the report -- which was begun three years after the incident and left unfinished when the FBI seized NOPD computers -- Capt. Jeff Winn said the car was moved from a police compound to the levee because he wanted "the deceased body to be in a secure area away from the habitated area."

Federal investigators are looking into whether Glover was shot by a police officer and whether other officers set fire to the car after they moved it to the levee. Read more...

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May 25, 2010 15:09

No Follow-Up on Henry Glover Missing Persons Report

Henry Glover disappeared on Sept. 2, 2005. In November, his mother filed an official missing persons report. Two weeks later, another officer filed a report describing a police shooting on the same day, at the shopping center where Edna Glover said her son had gone.

But the NOPD didn't notice the coincidence and didn't start investigating the Glover case until after reporter A.C. Thompson's story about the case appeared in The Nation three years later. Read more...

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May 24, 2010 11:03

5th Officer Charged in Danziger Cover-Up

Officer Ignatius Hills, a seven-year veteran of the NOPD, was charged on Friday with one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice and one count of failing to report a crime for his role in the Danziger Bridge shootings. Hills participated in the secret January 2006 meeting where the officers concocted the cover-up, and wrote the police report that accused civilian Lance Madison of shooting at officers. Read more...

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May 18, 2010 17:42

Justice Dept. to Begin Wide-Ranging Investigation of NOPD

The DOJ announced Monday that in response to Mayor Mitch Landrieu's request for federal assistance it would begin a wide-ranging investigation into NOPD practices -- "examining everything from ... policies for hiring officers to the use of deadly force on the streets," according to our partners at the Times-Picayune. Read more...

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May 6, 2010 14:28

Mayor Asks for Federal Assistance to Transform NOPD

Yesterday, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who took office on Monday, asked the Justice Department to assist in his efforts to transform the NOPD.

"I have inherited a police force that has been described by many as one of the worst police departments in the country," Landrieu wrote in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. "The assessment is made based on several indicators including the number of violent crimes, incidents of rape, and malfeasance by members of the police department. ... It is clear nothing short of a complete transformation is necessary and essential to ensure safety for the citizens of New Orleans."

There are at least eight ongoing federal civil rights investigations into the NOPD; our partners at the Times-Picayune suggest that the letter shows the new mayor's intent to "get in front" of what's largely seen as "inevitable federal intervention."

And today Landrieu announced a new police chief. Ronal Serpas, head of the Nashville Police Department, is expected to take the reins after Nashville's flooding emergency passes. Serpas, who served as second-in-command to former NOPD Chief Richard Pennington from 1996-2001, replaces Warren Riley, who resigned on Monday with the change in administration.

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April 29, 2010 13:43

Two More Guilty Pleas in Danziger Case

Yesterday Officer Robert Barrios and civilian David Ryder both entered guilty pleas in District Court for their roles in the Danziger Bridge shootings and cover up. Barrios admitted that he participated with other officers in concocting the cover-up and that he lied about shooting at civilians. Ryder, a civilian who was a witness in the original NOPD report about the incident, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and for illegally possessing a firearm. Read more...

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April 16, 2010 16:14

Fourth Officer Charged in Danziger Bridge Case

Officer Robert Barrios is charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice for his role in the Danziger Bridge cover up. Read more...

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April 13, 2010 11:07

Third Officer Under Investigation in Glover Case

The Times-Picayune reports that federal investigators are looking at Officer Greg McRae's possible involvement in burning the car in which Henry Glover's remains were found. The feds believe Glover was shot earlier by another officer, David Warren. Read more...

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April 12, 2010 12:27

New Evidence in Post-Katrina Vigilante Shooting

In addition to their sprawling investigation into the NOPD, federal investigators are looking into claims of racially motivated violence in the New Orleans neighborhood of Algiers Point in the days after Katrina -- and new evidence has emerged.

The federal investigation was prompted by reporting first published by ProPublica and The Nation in December 2008. The story, "Katrina's Hidden Race War," described the activities of a neighborhood militia formed in the aftermath of the hurricane. Locals in Algiers Point, a predominately white neighborhood, said the armed group was formed to protect property from thieves. But others described a pattern of violence directed towards African Americans.

The story uncovered evidence of a string of incidents in which the group threatened, attacked, and shot African Americans. It profiled a man named Donnell Herrington who had been shot in the neck and almost died.

Federal investigators have looked closely at the Herrington case and recently took grand jury testimony from Terri Benjamin, who lived Algiers Point at the time and saw the vigilante activity firsthand.

In an interview for FRONTLINE, Benjamin describes in dramatic detail the atmosphere of fear and growing violence in Algiers Point in the days after Katrina hit.

Speaking to ProPublica reporter A.C. Thompson, Benjamin recounts an event that she'll never forget. She was preparing to leave Algiers Point -- things were getting out of hand, she said. Then she saw her neighbor, Roland Bourgeois, Jr. and several others celebrating -- "hootin' and hollerin'." They said they had shot someone. But one of the vigilantes reported back -- the man wasn't dead yet. Roland set off with his shotgun to finish the job, Benjamin says.

He ran around the corner, she says. Then a shotgun blast was heard. And soon Bourgeois was back, waving a bloody blue cap around like it was a trophy.

The cap, Thompson reports, probably belonged to Donnell Herrington, who described the events of that day to FRONTLINE last year. He had been fleeing his damaged home, heading to a designated evacuation zone, a ferry terminal on the river. To get there he had to go through Algiers Point.

Accompanied by a cousin and friend, Herrington had barely crossed into Algiers Point when he suddenly felt the pain of a spray of hot lead in his back and neck. He had been shot from behind with a shotgun.

Herrington fell but got up to run. Soon though another shot rang out -- he was hit again. As he struggled for his life he staggered back the way he had come. He came upon two men in a pickup truck. They did not offer help; instead they threatened to shoot him as well.

Terri Benjamin did not see the shooting of Donnell Herrington; her witness testimony is strictly related to what she saw from her porch -- a group of white men celebrating the shooting of a black man. But Thompson reports that he has since talked with Roland Bourgeois's mother, Pam Pitre, who confirmed that her son was involved in Herrington's shooting. Pitre told Thompson that her son encountered three African-American men, who "looked like gang members" trying to break into parked cars, and that he and another man fired shots meant to "scare," not kill. The only reason the federal government is investigating, she is quoted as saying, is because "this man Roland shot survived and is telling his tale."

Bourgeois has not been charged with any crime, and declined to be interviewed. U.S. Department of Justice spokesperson Xochitl Hinojosa said she couldn't comment on the investigation. At this point, Thompson reports, it is unclear whether the probe will lead to indictments.

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April 8, 2010 10:59

Officer Says Cops Shot Unarmed Civilians on Bridge

Yesterday, the details of Officer Michael Hunter's guilty plea in the Danziger Bridge case were released. According to Hunter's plea, he drove at least seven officers to the bridge that day in a Budget rentral truck. The officers were responding to a radio transmission that other officers were taking fire nearby.

As the truck approached a group of civilians on the bridge, Hunter says he fired a warning shot in the air. But according to his plea, several other officers fired upon the civilians, and continued shooting even after it was determined that the civilians were unarmed and injured.

Three officers then followed a group of three men who were running away, near the bottom of the bridge. Two of the men were Lance and Ronald Madison. In the fall of 2009, Times-Picayune reporter Laura Maggi told FRONTLINE what happened to the Madisons on the bridge that day.

According to Hunter's plea, Ronald Madison was "running with his hands in view, had no weapon and posed no threat." An officer shot Madison in the back; as he lay dying, a second officer "began kicking or stomping Ronald Madison repeatedly with his foot."

Ronald Madison and 17-year-old James Brisette died on the Danziger Bridge that day; four other civilians were wounded. Read more ...

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April 2, 2010 10:58

Civilian Charged in Danziger Bridge Case

David Ryder was named as a key witness in the NOPD's official report into the Danziger Bridge incident, but yesterday he was charged with lying to federal investigators about what he saw that day. Read more...

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March 30, 2010 17:20

Third Officer Charged in Danziger Conspiracy

Today, Officer Michael Hunter was charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice and concealing knowledge of a federal crime -- making him the third NOPD officer charged in the Danziger Bridge case.

Among the details in the court filing -- that Hunter, who was one of the officers who responded to the original reports of shots fired on the bridge, and other officers held a previously undisclosed secret meeting during which they concocted their story about what happened on the bridge that day.

Read more from our partners at the Times-Picayune...

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March 21, 2010 18:20

A Culture of Corruption?

Brendan McCarthy examines the recent guilty pleas in the Danziger Bridge case in today's Times-Picayune. "Do the misdeeds signify a few rotten apples at NOPD or reveal an entire culture of corruption?" he asks. Read more...

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March 14, 2010 13:33

Questions Raised About Glover Police Report

Our Law and Disorder colleagues have gotten their hands on the police report in Henry Glover's death ... and it raises more questions than answers.

Sources close to federal investigators, who are looking into the incident, say that two pages of the initial incident report (PDF) weren't written by Sgt. Nina Simmons, whose name and signature are on the cover page. Read more ...

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March 10, 2010 22:39

Second Officer Charged in Danziger Cover-Up

A second NOPD officer appears to be cooperating with the feds in their widening investigation into a cover-up at the Danziger Bridge...

Jeffrey Lehrmann, one of two officers who interviewed witnesses after several civilians were shot by police at the Danziger Bridge, has been charged in federal court with knowing about and concealing a crime.

According to recently unsealed court documents obtained by our partners at the Times-Picayune, Lehrmann knew about and participated in the conspiracy to obstruct justice that former NOPD Lt. Michael Lohman outlined last month. Lehrmann is specifically charged with the "creation of false police reports and the provision of false information to investigating agents."

Read more about the charges against Lehrmann here.

And read Lehrmann's guilty plea here (PDF).

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February 25, 2010 13:27

New Developments

A police investigator admits to planting evidence on the Danziger Bridge and participating in a cover-up ... another officer is under investigation for shooting Henry Glover ... and the feds have widened their probe into the NOPD. Here's what we've learned since we launched Law & Disorder two weeks ago...

· On Feb. 24, former NOPD Lt. Michael Lohman pled guilty to conspiracy to obstruct justice and acknowledged participating in a cover up in the Danziger Bridge case (Case 6) in which NOPD officers shot at civilians, killing two and wounding four. According to court documents, Lohman admitted to helping plant a gun at the scene, helping craft several fraudulent police reports, failing to collect evidence at the scene and lying to federal agents. Read more...

· In mid-February we learned that federal investigators believe that then-NOPD rookie officer David Warren shot Henry Glover, (Case 5) whose charred remains were found in the back of an incinerated car left on the banks of the Mississippi River. Read more...

· And also in mid-February, we learned that federal investigators have broadened their investigation and are looking at the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Matthew McDonald (Case 2) and Danny Brumfield (Case 3), and the nonfatal shooting of Keenon McCann (Case 4). Read more...

We're still looking for your help -- if you have information or tips related to any of these cases e-mail us or call our tip line [504-826-3775].

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February 9, 2010 12:32

Introduction to Law & Disorder

A mysterious photo of a man lying motionless on the ground, in a bloodied shirt, surrounded by cops... Is he dead?

Human remains found in the burned shell of a car by the Mississippi River ... Did New Orleans police set the fire to cover up evidence of a killing?

A man is shot and killed by a police officer. Why did it take four years for the family to find out?

It's been nearly five years since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, still many questions are left unanswered in its aftermath. FRONTLINE, ProPublica and the New Orleans Times-Picayune have teamed up in a unique investigative collaboration to try and find some answers.

We're taking a fresh look at six cases of violent encounters between police and civilians in the days after the levees broke. Federal investigators also are looking into a number of these cases. We have five reporters on the beat, and our investigation will continue to unfold online in the coming months, with documents, text and video updates as we learn more.

But we want your help -- if you have any knowledge of these cases, call our tip line [504-826-3775], or e-mail us.

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posted October 6, 2011

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