NEW ORLEANS (CN) – A former New Orleans Police Department officer will face five years in federal prison for his role in covering up a police-involved shooting 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.
Former NOPD officer Robert Barrios finally agreed to cooperate with the FBI in April 2010, pleading guilty to conspiracy to obstruct justice.
U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon gave Barrios the maximum sentence for that charge on Friday.
Barrios was the last of five former police officers who agreed to cooperate. Barrios admitted that he and the other officers agreed to falsify documents and other evidence in order to throw off the investigations that followed the shooting.
Barrios also admitted that he and other officers were instructed by two sergeants assigned to investigate the shooting to get their stories straight before they gave their formal, audio-taped statement to NOPD investigators.
Barrios further admitted that he lied in his formal NOPD statement to help cover for his fellow officers. He admitted to providing false and misleading information in order to make the shootings on the bridge appear to be legally justified and to shield the officers involved from liability.
Officers involved in the Danzinger Bridge shooting 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. The officers then drove to the east side of the bridge, where two adult brothers were crossing on foot. Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old mentally disabled man, died after officers shot him in the back.
Barrios, now 29, is the fifth cooperating police officer to be sentenced in this case. Former Lt. Michael Lohman, former Detective Jeffrey Lehrmann, and former officers Michael Hunter and Ignatius Hills are all serving federal prison sentences. A jury in August found the officers guilty for the cover-up but not guilty of murder.
The five officers who were convicted at trial – Sgts. Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, and Arthur “Archie” Kaufman; Officer Anthony Villavaso; and former Officer Robert Faulcon – are scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt on Feb. 14.