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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Cops Face Long Haul for Katrina Shootings

(CN) - Five former New Orleans police officers will each serve decades in prison for a controversial shooting and cover-up that occurred in the days following Hurricane Katrina.

On Sept. 4, 2005, just five days after the hurricane, a group of police officers opened fire on the Danzinger Bridge as civilians crossed to rejoin their families and get supplies.

The Danzinger Bridge is one of eight bridges crossing the Industrial Canal. It connects New Orleans with Eastern New Orleans, a neighborhood badly flooded during Katrina.

Police shot and killed two people and seriously wounded four others. The Danziger Bridge shooting was widely publicized because of the years-long police cover-up, which involved planting a gun at the scene.

The four officers who were involved in the bridge shooting will serve hard time.

Sgt. Kenneth Bowen was sentenced to 40 years in prison; Sgt. Robert Gisevius was sentenced to 40 years in prison; Officer Robert Faulcon was sentenced to 65 years in prison; and Officer Anthony Villavaso was sentenced to 38 years in prison.

A fifth officer involved in a widespread cover-up, Sgt. Arthur "Archie" Kaufman, was sentenced to six years in prison.

U.S. District Judge Kurt Englehardt handed down the sentences Wednesday.

The officers were charged with opening fire on two families fleeing flooded New Orleans on Sept. 4.

According to the indictment, the officers drove onto the east side of the bridge in a Budget rental truck after receiving a call that civilians had fired at nearby officers.

James Brisette, 17, was killed, and four members of the Bartholomew family were wounded.

One officer shot off the right arm of Susan Bartholomew, 38, with a high-powered assault rifle. Leonard Bartholomew III, 44, survived after getting shot in the leg and the back of the head. Lesha Bartholomew, 17, was shot in both legs and in the stomach. The Bartholomew's nephew, Jose Holmes, 19, was shot in the face, the neck, both arms, the hand and the stomach. The Bartholomew's 14-year-old son ran away from the shooting and safely escaped the hail of bullets.

The officers then drove to the east side of the bridge, where two adult brothers were fleeing on foot. Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old mentally disabled man, died after officers shot him in the back. As part of the cover-up, officers arrested Lance Madison and falsely charged him with eight counts of attempting to kill police officers.

Though Sgt. Kaufman later testified that Madison had fired his own gun at police on the bridge that day, authorities released him without charges after a three-week detention.

A jury in August found those officers, guilty for the cover-up but not guilty of murder.

Others involved in the shooting have already been sentenced after pleading guilty to the charges. Former officer Robert Barrios is serving five years; former Lt. Michael Lohman is serving four years; former Detective Jeffrey Lehrmann is serving three years; former officer Michael Hunter is serving 6 1/2 years; and former officer Ignatius Hills is serving eight years.

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