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ProPublica: Law and Disorder

After Katrina, New Orleans Police
Shot Frequently and Asked Few Questions

Case Three

Danny Brumfield Sr., 45, was shot to death by New Orleans police officer Ronald Mitchell on the night of Sept. 2, 2005, or the early morning of Sept. 3, 2005, outside the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

Danny Brumfield Sr.

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The Police Account

Ronald Mitchell, and his partner, Ray Jones, said they encountered Brumfield as they drove along Convention Center Boulevard about 2 a.m. on Sept. 3. Brumfield, they said, jumped on the hood of their police cruiser and then attempted to attack Mitchell with a pair of scissors. Fearing for his life, Mitchell fired a single shot from his weapon, a 12-gauge shotgun, which struck Brumfield. The officers say they got out of their vehicle and checked Brumfield’s vital signs; he was dead. As the crowd gathered at the convention center grew angry, they left.

Mitchell says he returned to the area later that night and said he saw a pair of “scissors with a red handle” on the ground near Brumfield’s corpse. Police didn’t collect the scissors, and photos reportedly taken by officers at the site of the shooting were lost.

NOPD veteran detective DeCynda Barnes, who investigated the matter, deemed the shooting justified, although she never looked at Brumfield’s autopsy report. The autopsy found he’d died from “a single shotgun wound to the left back.” She erroneously thought he’d been shot from the front, and hit in the “left shoulder,” police documents and her sworn testimony show.

The Family’s Account

Brumfield’s relatives, who were with him at the convention center and witnessed the incident, said Brumfield was trying to get the officers’ attention when he approached the police cruiser. His sister, Dolores Augustin, said he might have been trying to get aid for a dehydrated grandchild; his niece, Africa Brumfield, thought he was seeking help for a woman in the crowd who was screaming.  In depositions, both women said he wasn’t brandishing scissors and did not hurl himself onto the vehicle. The car drove into Brumfield repeatedly, throwing him onto the hood, according to Africa Brumfield.

Africa Brumfield and other witnesses said her uncle was flailing about on the hood of the car, trying to maintain his balance, when a gunshot went off. The family also contends the shooting happened around 9:30 p.m. on Sept. 2, 2005.

In 2008, the Brumfield family settled a wrongful death suit with the city of New Orleans for $400,000, according to the city attorney’s office.

How a New Orleans Police Detective Missed a Key Clue in a Controversial Killing

The New Orleans Police Department’s official 12-page report on the death of Danny Brumfield Sr. comes to this conclusion: The 45-year-old grandfather was to blame…

The Case Files

Case One

Religious Street

There is no police report describing what happened in this photo.

Case Two

Matt McDonald

Why didn’t police tell his family he was killed by an officer?

Case Three

Danny Brumfield

How does a man waving down a police car die from a shotgun blast to his back?

Case Four

Keenon McCann

The gun police said he had was never found.

Case Five

Henry Glover

His skull and ashes were found in the back of an incinerated Chevy.

Case Six

Danziger Bridge

Officers responding to an emergency call opened fire on civilians, injuring four and killing two.

The Reporters


A.C. Thompson

Reporter
ProPublica

Tom Jennings

Producer
Frontline

Gordon Russell

City Editor
The Times-Picayune

Brendan McCarthy

Reporter
The Times-Picayune

Laura Maggi

Reporter
The Times-Picayune
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