Of all the stories to come out of New Orleans in the days immediately after Katrina, the incident on Danziger Bridge was, and continues to be, the most opaque.
Fourteen people shot! No, eight! No, 5! They were shooting at the contractors! No, they were running away! No, they shot two police! The contractors were under police escort! No, the police responded!
The details changed every time the story was reported, as Xymphora documented a week after the shootings occured.
I wrote about this last May, but sixteen months after the shootings, there’s still no clarity. There are, however, a number of first-degree murder indictments (NOLA.com):
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 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.
Whatever the grand jury was told, it must have been pretty compelling, because first degree murder is one heckuva charge. More:
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.”
And from the other side of the equation:
Legal representatives for the officers could not be reached Thursday. In an interview with the Associated Press, Franz Zibilich, an attorney for Faulcon, said: “As a wise man once said, a district attorney can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.
I don’t think they indicted ham sandwiches, frankly. It’s been clear for a long time that at least some police crossed the line that day. However, there’s a lot more to this story, and only NOLA.com’s reporting has enough details, including this:
Both Donovan Livaccari, FOP employee representative, and Glasser called the indictments a political gambit by Jordan to win the allegiance of voters distrustful of police officers. Both also said that Jordan misled several of the officers involved, granting them immunity so they would testify and then indicting them.
[snark] Voters distrustful of police officers? In New Orleans??? [/snark]
But the reputation of the New Orleans police is also meat for this sandwich. Their problems are legendary, and the distrust and hostility between those who have sworn to protect, and those they serve, is so profound, it’s beyond me how there could possibly be a fair and impartial jury in Orleans Parish… or how they’ll distinguish between fact and fiction if they do manage to put one together.
The citizens of the city and the police both need resolution on this. I hope they get it.
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Others blogging (from a wide variety of perspectives): Hot Air, CrabAppleLane, Adrastos