Killer cops indicted for post-Katrina fatal shootings
Published Aug 6, 2010 11:07 AM
Imagine losing everything you’ve ever owned, including your personal
documents, your most valuable and cherished possessions. In addition, there is
suffering the personal loss through death, disappearance or displacement of
family, loved ones and friends. This was the plight of most survivors of 2005
Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and the ensuing flood from broken levees,
especially in the Ninth Ward.
The majority of the victims were Black and poor citizens who were unable to
evacuate the affected areas prior to the storm. Responses to their immediate
cries for help were largely ignored by all levels of government. And the
indifference and unnecessary delays in rescuing them resulted in prolonged
suffering in the hurricane’s aftermath.
To add insult to injury, the racist mainstream media depicted many of the
survivors as “looters” and “wild criminals,” instead of
as victims, and initially referred to them as “refugees.” Their
trauma and devastating situation were overshadowed by this exaggerated, skewed
Right after the hurricane, some white New Orleans residents in their unaffected
areas formed armed vigilante groups to prevent Black survivors from entering
their neighborhoods via the Danziger Bridge. Some went hunting for “n ...
..s” and bragged about shooting them. Even the U.S. military prevented
Black survivors from seeking refuge and shelter on abandoned government
property. In addition, the U.S. government-contracted mercenary force
Blackwater made its presence known in the area.
Armed racist white residents weren’t alone in preventing Black survivors
from seeking help and relief. In late 2008 an investigative journalist, A.C.
Thompson, succeeded in getting published in the The Nation magazine results of
his 18-month-long investigation of police shootings on the Danziger Bridge.
The journalist uncovered the Sept. 4, 2005, incidents where white cops shot
innocent, unarmed Black survivors who were seeking safe haven, food and water.
Two Black men were killed and a family of four was wounded by the cops on the
The men killed were James Brisette, age 17, and Ronald Madison, who was
severely mentally challenged. Both Brisette and Madison were unarmed. Former
Officer Robert Faulcon shot Madison in the back as he tried to flee, and he was
then kicked and stomped to death by Sgt. Kenneth Bowen.
The journalist’s investigation also revealed the Sept. 2 killing of a
Black man, Danny Brumfield, stranded with his family at the Convention Center.
The man reportedly tried to flag down a cop car for help. But he was
deliberately hit by the cop car and then shot in the back in front of many
Another Black victim, Henry Glover, was taken hostage by police on Sept. 4,
shot, then his body was either burned while he was still alive or burned after
Following the release of the journalist’s report, and under pressure by
activists, the U.S. Justice Department launched a civil rights investigation,
which included visiting the crime scenes, interviewing witnesses and seizing
This July 14, as the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approached, U.S.
Attorney General Eric Holder announced that four New Orleans police officers
had been charged with “civil rights violations” in the Sept. 4
shootings. Sergeants Kenneth Bowen and Robert Gisevius, Officer Anthony
Villavaso and former Officer Robert Faulcon were indicted on 27 counts for
killing Madison and Brisette. A total of 11 cops have been charged with
conspiring to cover up the shootings, and several have confessed to perjury.
Six have been charged with false arrests.
Shortly after the shootings, then-police chief Warren Riley claimed in a press
conference that the officers in question “approached the subjects who
were several feet away, who fired on the police officers. The officers returned
fire.” (NY Amsterdam News, July 22). The Justice Department asserted that
Riley’s statement and other lies were part of the police
department’s cover-up, which included falsifying police reports,
manufacturing witnesses and planting a gun at the scene.
There were also many other reported incidents of police brutality in the wake
of Hurricane Katrina. The New Orleans Police Department has a history of
corruption, violence and killings. And for three years after the murders, the
city’s district attorney, its federal attorney and local media ignored
the killings until the 2008 report.
Hurricane Katrina survivors, five years later, are still fighting for the right
to return home to New Orleans. The city, state, federal governments and private
developers readily found money to rebuild the Superdome stadium, the French
Quarter tourist area and other enterprises. But schools, medical facilities,
day care and senior centers are still closed. Many small businesses have not
been able to reopen. Adequate, affordable housing and homelessness are still a
problem. And the rebuilding of the blighted Ninth Ward continues at a
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