Journalism in the Public Interest

Times-Picayune Frontline

Our Investigative Partners:

ProPublica: Law and Disorder

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

Feds Tell Two New Orleans Officers They’re Targets in Post-Katrina Shooting Probe

Hurricane Katrina victims cover their faces as they walk past the body of Danny Brumfield Sr., in the street prior to being evacuated from the convention center in New Orleans. (Eric Gay/AP Photo)

The federal government has sent letters informing two New Orleans police officers that they are targets of an investigation into the death of 45-year-old Danny Brumfield Sr., a man who was shot to death just outside the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center after Hurricane Katrina, our partners at the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported today.

According to the story, Brumfield's case is one of at least eight open civil-rights probes into post-Katrina shootings by the New Orleans Police Department. A federal investigation into his case began this year after our joint reporting effort with the Times-Picayune and PBS "Frontline" raised questions about the circumstances of his death and whether the police department's investigation had been thorough.

In particular, we pointed out that a homicide detective who investigated the shooting and decided it was "justified" had overlooked Brumfield's autopsy report. The detective had testified that Brumfield was shot from the front, which seemed to fit with the officers' account that Brumfield had jumped on the hood of the police car, armed with scissors. The autopsy showed he was shot from the back.

One of the letters sent by the feds states that investigators are considering perjury and obstruction charges against one of the officers, Ray Jones. Jones and his partner, Ronald Mitchell, were the two officers involved in the incident, and Mitchell fired the shot that killed Brumfield. Jones' attorney, Eric Hessler, told the Times-Picayune that his client was innocent and had reported the incident truthfully. Mitchell's actions are also being investigated.

The officers' account of the events contradicts the accounts of family members who witnessed the shooting.

The family said Brumfield tried to flag down the police car to get help, but the car rammed into him several times and he jumped on the hood to avoid being struck. A newspaper photograph of Brumfield's corpse does show scissors next to it, but the scissors were not collected, and police photos of the shooting were lost.

Brumfield's family settled a wrongful-death lawsuit with the city of New Orleans in 2008. The city agreed to pay $400,000.

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…

All Entries

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


Tom Jennings


Gordon Russell

City Editor
The Times-Picayune

Brendan McCarthy

The Times-Picayune

Laura Maggi

The Times-Picayune