Friday, 28 August 2015

The most horrific police shooting in the USA                          

Hurricane Katrina was the fifth hurricane of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season. It was also the costliest natural disaster, as well as one of the five deadliest hurricanes in the history of the United States.                  

When it hit New Orleans on August 9, 2005, it was classed as a Category 3 hurricane with respect to its intensity. The problem facing that city is that it was built below sea level. Earthen dykes surrounded the city as a means of protection from the surrounding water. As to be expected, some of the levies broke which resulted in 80% of the city and surrounding areas being flooded.

Whenever there is a disaster, you can be sure that criminals will take advantage of the people who are suffering from the disaster. Now this article isn’t about those kinds of criminals but rather about the city’s police who were searching for criminals committing crimes in New Orleans.

Six days after  Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, a family, the Bartholomews, and a friend of the family who had been walking to a grocery store;  were crossing the Danziger Bridge that spans the Industrial Canal when seven police officers including Sgt. Kenneth Bowen, Sgt. Robert Gisevius, Officer Anthony Villavaso, and Officer Robert Faulcon (none of whom were in uniform) arrived at Danzinger Bridge in a Budget rental truck. There were responding to a radio call that there was an officer down (meaning shot) in the vicinity of that bridge and that at least four people had been firing weapons at the police. 

But when the seven officers arrived, there were no other police on or near the bridge and they saw no body of anyone lying on the bridge or in the immediate area of the bridge.

The officers after getting out of the vehicle, lined up as if they were at a firing range. They were armed with assault weapons including AK-47s, (in which one was unauthorized) and an M4 carbine assault rifle. Instead of approaching the family cautiously, they presumed that the family and the family’s friend were the criminals who had been previously shooting at other officers.  For this reason, the seven police officers immediately open-fired on the innocent family and their friend in which none of them had a criminal record.

In the first part of the incident, 17-year-old James Brissette—the family friend was shot and killed instantly. Mrs. Susan Bartholemew's arm was partially shot off and it later had to be amputated. Her husband, Leonard, was shot in the back, head and foot. Bartholomews' teenage daughter Lesha was shot four times. Jose Holmes Jr., a friend of Brissette's, was shot in the abdomen, the hand and the jaw. Two brothers, Ronald and Lance Madison, fled the scene, but were pursued along the bridge by officers Gisevius and Faulcon in an unmarked state police vehicle. Faulcon fired his shotgun from the car at Ronald, a developmentally disabled man who would later die from his injuries. The autopsy found that Ronald Madison sustained seven gunshot wounds, five of them in his back.

Then to increase the stupidity of the police officers, they arrested Lance Madison and took him into custody and charged him with eight counts of attempting to kill police officers. He was held in custody for three weeks before being released without indictment. How can you attempt to kill police officers when you are unarmed? 

No weapons were recovered at the scene, and both police (who later came on the scene) and civilian witnesses testified that the victims had been unarmed. Then who fired shots in the vicinity of the bridge before the stupid cops arrived on the scene?  Later investigation showed that some shots had been fired in the area by trapped residents in their homes attempting to attract the attention of rescuers. So in fact, the shots fired by the stupid cops were for naught. OOPS.

Now I ask you—do some police officers lie when on duty?  The answer to that question is akin to asking if Pope Francis is a Roman Catholic. 

The police shooters stated that while approaching the bridge, they had been fired on by civilians, and were forced to return fire. Homicide detective Arthur "Archie" Kaufman was the lead investigator on the case. He was later found guilty of conspiring with the defendants to conceal evidence in order to make the shootings appear justified, including fabricating information for his official reports on the case. What a stupid man he was. Didn’t he realize that other officers found no weapons whatsoever on the victims or even near the victims.

On December 6th 2006, seven police officers were charged with first degree murder.  They were; police sergeants Kenneth Bowen and Robert Gisevius and officers Robert Faulcon and Anthony Villavaso. Officers Robert Barrios, Michael Hunter and Ignatius Hills are charged with attempted murder.

In 2010, Former officer Michael Hunter pleads guilty in federal court of covering up the police shooting. That same year, he is sentenced to 8 years in prison.

In the summer of 2011, Arthur "Archie" Kaufman was convicted of conspiring a massive cover-up of the shooting.  A jury found Kaufman guilty of writing several fabricated police reports about what happened on the bridge. He also planted a gun, created fictional witnesses and attempted to frame innocent people.

Four of the New Orleans police officers who fired their guns at the victims were sentenced to 38 to 65 years in prison for convictions including violating the civil rights of the two people killed in 2005. The convictions and sentences for these former officers were as following;

Robert Faulcon, Jr. 6 counts of deprivation of rights under color of law. 3 counts of using a weapon during commission of a crime of violence. 1 count of conspiracy. 2 counts of obstruction of justice.1 count of civil rights conspiracy. Sentence: 65 years in prison.

Bowen 6 counts of deprivation of rights under color of law. 2 counts of using a weapon during commission of a crime of violence. 1 count of conspiracy. 2 counts of obstruction of justice. 1 count of civil rights conspiracy. Sentence: 40 years in prison.

Robert Gisevius, Jr. 5 counts of deprivation of rights under color of law.2 counts of using a weapon during commission of a crime of violence.1 count of conspiracy.1 count of obstruction of justice. 2 counts of civil rights conspiracy. Sentence: 40 years in prison.

Anthony Villavaso 2 counts of using a weapon during commission of a crime of violence. 1 count of conspiracy. 1 count of obstruction of justice. 1 count of civil rights conspiracy. Sentence: 38 years in prison.

Since these convictions are federal convictions, they cannot be released from prison on parole. They will be old men by the time they are released. Meanwhile, they will have to be kept in protective custody while in prison otherwise they will be killed by inmates.

In September 2013, U.S. District Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt, a federal judge ordered new trials for the four New Orleans police officers who were convicted of violating the civil rights of two people killed on the bridge in 2005. He also ordered a new trial for a fifth officer, Kaufmann who was convicted of covering up the crimes. Kaufmann was released on bail but the other officers had to remain in prison waiting for a new trial. 

Officer Bowen had originally been charged with kicking and stomping Madison as he lay “on the ground, alive but mortally wounded,” according to the indictment. Bowen denied the allegation, contending that the witness who accused him of kicking Madison lied. Judge Engelhardt threw out the conviction on this count, finding the witness wasn’t credible and the government failed to provide evidence supporting the claim. “In fact, the government offered no evidence whatsoever that any type of kick or stomp, by any person, caused any bodily injury whatsoever to Madison,” Engelhardt wrote.

The prosecutor also alleged that the defendants conspired to “cover up what happened on the bridge” by filing charges against Lance Madison and Jose Holmes, a civilian who was injured on the bridge. That is a common ploy of many police officers who shoot or beat civilians—accusing their victims of attacking them first.

The judge threw out the previous convictions against Bowen, Gisevius, Faulcon and Villavaso on the accusation of attempting to implicate Holmes. Engelhardt found that “the government failed to prove that any of these defendants specifically identified Jose Holmes by name.” He also threw out convictions on evidence grounds against Bowen and Gisevius over claims they too attempted to implicate Lance Madison. The judge upheld the jury’s convictions on the other counts. That means that the police officers that did the shootings were remaining in prison to serve the balance of their sentences minus a year or so re the acquittals mentioned in this paragraph. 

In the spring of this year (2015) the federal judge’s decision to void a civil rights triumph for the U.S. Department of Justice will be put to the test on nearly 10 years down the road from the bloody scene on the vertical lift bridge that would come to define New Orleans police corruption to the world.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is set to hear oral arguments over U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt’s jaw-dropping 2013 order granting new trials to five New Orleans police officers convicted of perpetrating or covering up the shooting of six unarmed people on the Danziger Bridge on Sept. 4, 2005, killing two.

Engelhardt found “grotesque prosecutorial misconduct” by the feds, locally and from afar. Their bad behavior came largely in the form of online hijinks by a few federal prosecutors, and what Engelhardt saw as an underhanded attempt to mislead him over the extent of the now-notorious commenting scandal by the embattled federal prosecutor  Sal Perricone who made wrongful statements on line by using aliases that forced him to resign.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in August of this year (2015) upholding Judge Engelhardt’s 2013 decision that the five former New Orleans police officers deserve a new trial on charges connected to the deadly shootings of unarmed people amid the chaos that followed Hurricane Katrina. Former Sgt. Arthur "Archie" Kaufman who also was convicted in the cover-up will get a new trial.

"The reasons for granting a new trial are novel and extraordinary," Judge Edith Jones wrote on behalf of herself and Judge Edith Clement. "No less than three high-ranking federal prosecutors are known to have been posting online, anonymous comments to newspaper articles about the case throughout its duration. The government makes no attempt to justify the prosecutors' ethical lapses, which the court described as having created an 'online 21st century carnival atmosphere.

In my respectful opinion, that decision was just. The jurors in the first trial could have been unfairly influenced by what those prosecutors had been saying in their newspaper articles. Their statements should have been restricted to the courtroom only.

I don’t know if the four cops serving their lengthy sentences in prison have been released yet. In any case, as soon as I learn the results of what the new trial are, I will update this article. 

No comments: