In 2010, the Justice Department announced that it had charged a total of six New Orleans police officers after a federal investigation into the shooting.
Federal authorities said that four of the officers — Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, Robert Faulcon and Anthony Villavaso — shot at an unarmed family on the east side of the bridge on Sept. 4, 2005, killing 17-year-old James Brissette and injuring four others. Minutes later, the officers shot and killed Ronald Madison while firing at him and his brother, Lance, according to prosecutors.
Police had responded to the bridge after receiving a call that other officers in the area had come under fire, according to court records.
When the Justice Department announced that it was indicting six New Orleans officers, it said that the four involved in the bridge shooting and two others — Arthur Kaufman and Gerard Dugue — joined together to cover up what had happened and claim that the shootings were justified. (Dugue, a retired sergeant, was tried separately from the other five. That ended in a mistrial and he is still awaiting a new trial.)
The five New Orleans officers on trial were convicted by a jury; four of them were each sentenced to decades in prison, while Kaufman was given a shorter sentence. But a judge determined that the officers needed a new trial after a lengthy scandal involving U.S. attorneys who had posted anonymous comments online about cases. An appeals court agreed with that in a ruling last year, saying there were “novel and extraordinary” reasons for a new trial.
On Wednesday, the five officers who had been convicted pleaded guilty to more than a dozen combined counts. Most of them pleaded guilty to civil rights violations, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana, and all five pleaded guilty to conspiring to obstruct justice and make false statements.
*Originally published in the Washington Post.