Five New Orleans police officers plead guilty today for the cold-blooded murder of two unarmed African-Americans and the serious wounding of four others on the Danziger Bridge during the chaos of Hurricane Katrina. The 2005 shootings were covered up and sold to the press as a “gun battle,” which was later found to be false and lead to the five officers being slapped with a new trial in 2011 for their “grotesque” ethical misconduct.
Witnesses say the police shot them “like at a firing range” and killed unarmed forty-year-old Ronald Madison, who had mental disabilities, and teenager James Brissette. “I finally got what I wanted, someone confessed” wept Brissette’s mother, Sherrell Johnson.
The five ex-officers, however, have had their sentences sharply cut with the plea bargain. The sentencing is as follows:
- Kenneth Bowen, 10 years, previously 40 years.
- Robert Faulcon Jr., 12 years, previously 65 years.
- Robert Gisevius, 10 years, previously 40 years.
- Anthony Villavaso, 7 years, previously 38 years.
- Arthur Kaufman, who was involved in the cover-up but not the shooting, 3 years, previously 6 years.
While many feel the punishments weren’t harsh enough for the severity of their crime and the disgrace brought to the badge, a sense of closure in one of the most flagrant episodes of police brutality in this nation will be a healing balm we all can appreciate. Now we must turn our efforts to ensuring this never happens again. Police have killed 302 Americans so far this year, outpacing last year. It’s clear that we aren’t doing enough. Our citizens must stop being killed by those sworn to protect them.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.