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TallySaint 12-29-2006 07:07 AM

N.O. Cops Indicted in Killings on Bridge
7 N.O. cops indicted in killings on bridge
Shooting deaths came 6 days after Katrina

Friday, December 29, 2006

By Laura Maggi. Times Picayune

Seven New Orleans police officers were indicted Thursday on an array of murder and attempted-murder charges stemming from a shooting on the Danziger Bridge six days after Hurricane Katrina, which victims have portrayed as an ambush by police that left two dead and four wounded.

The state grand jury refuted the New Orleans Police Department account of what happened on Sept. 4, 2005, which had been portrayed by officers as an appropriate response to reports of both sniper fire and people shooting at police officers near the bridge, on Chef Menteur Highway in eastern New Orleans.

The grand jury separately cleared Lance Madison, a man whom police arrested that day and booked with attempted first-degree murder for allegedly shooting at law enforcement.

Four police officers -- Sgt. Kenneth Bowen, Sgt. Robert Gisevius, officer Anthony Villavaso and officer Robert Faulcon -- were charged with the first-degree murder of James Brissette, 19. Faulcon was also charged with the first-degree murder of Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old mentally retarded man whose body was found riddled with seven gunshot wounds to his back. Three more officers face attempted-murder charges.

The charge of first-degree murder carries a potential death sentence, which prosecutors said was warranted because the accused had shot the men while trying to harm or kill others. Chief Judge Raymond Bigelow, who received the grand jury indictments, said he would not set bond for the officers facing the first-degree murder charges.

Criticizing Jordan

In a written statement, the only one he would make about the indictments on Thursday, Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan said, "We cannot allow our police officers to shoot and kill our citizens without justification, like rabid dogs. The rules governing the use of lethal force are not suspended during a state of emergency. Everyone, including police officers, must abide by the law of the land."

New Orleans Police Superintendent Warren Riley asked the public to remember that all seven officers will have their days in court. He called the indictments one the saddest days in the department's history.

"I would like to remind everyone, this is but one step in the judicial process that will determine the future of these officers. This is not when it ends," he said at an evening news conference.

Riley also objected to the statement by Jordan that people had been shot "like rabid dogs," calling the phrase "unprofessional, highly prejudicial and highly undignified."

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