Federal prosecutors yesterday indicted New Orleans police officer Michael Hunter for his role in the Danziger Bridge incident, during which officers shot six citizens, killing two, days after Hurricane Katrina.
The indictment, on charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice and providing false information about a felony, makes Hunter the third New Orleans Police Department figure to be charged. In recent weeks, two ex-cops have pleaded guilty to similar offenses.
Hunter is the first officer who was actually on the bridge on Sept. 4, 2005, and fired shots to face charges. The other two, who have already entered guilty pleas, were involved only in the police department's investigation of the shooting incident.
It remains to be seen if the Justice Department will ever charge officers for the killings of Ronald Madison and James Brissette, or for wounding four other people, rather than for their roles in the cover-up that followed. Given the volume of bullets flying that day, the number of victims and the missing evidence -- ex-cop Jeffrey Lehrmann admitted to watching another officer kick shell casings off the bridge -- figuring out exactly who shot whom may pose an epic challenge for federal investigators.
In concert with our friends at PBS "Frontline" and the New Orleans Times-Picayune, ProPublica has been scrutinizing the Danziger bridge incident, as well as the shootings of Matthew McDonald, Danny Brumfield, Henry Glover and Keenon McCann, all of which transpired in the week after Katrina made landfall. Our reporting found the NOPD conducted a series of deeply flawed investigations into these violent encounters between cops and civilians, failing to interview witnesses, collect key evidence or thoroughly question the officers involved.