Nearly six years after Hurricane Katrina tore through Louisiana, a federal jury today convicted five current or former New Orleans police officers in connection with the Danziger Bridge shootings, which occurred in the tumultuous aftermath of the storm. The shootings left two citizens dead and four others injured.
The jury convicted four current or former officers of unlawfully firing on the citizens. The officers also were found guilty of charges related to a subsequent cover-up, including making false statements and conspiring to obstruct justice and falsely prosecute two people who survived the bloody encounter.
Though the jurors were largely swayed by the prosecution's case, they did not find that the shootings constituted murder.
A fifth defendant, former Sgt. Arthur Kaufman, who was tasked with investigating the shootings for the police department, was found guilty of a host of charges related to the cover-up. Among them were planting a gun at the scene to make it look as if the citizens had been armed, falsifying the police department report on the shootings and lying to federal investigators.
Five other former cops pleaded guilty prior to trial.
The Danziger trial is the latest in a string of prosecutions by the Justice Department, which has mounted a major effort to clean up the long-troubled New Orleans police force. The guilty verdicts are likely to be viewed as the most significant victory for federal prosecutors so far, due to the number of officers involved and the severity of the offenses.
ProPublica, in conjunction with PBS "Frontline" and the New Orleans Times-Picayune, has been covering police violence and corruption in New Orleans since 2008, examining a string of questionable killings by police. Our stories about the police can be found here. Our stories about the role of the coroner in police killings are here and here.