Charges dropped in post-Katrina shooting
NEW ORLEANS - A judge threw out murder and attempted murder charges yesterday against seven New Orleans police officers accused of gunning down two men on a bridge in the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
In quashing the indictments, District Judge Raymond Bigelow agreed with defense arguments that prosecutors violated state law by divulging secret grand jury testimony to a police officer who was a witness in the case. "The violation is clear," Bigelow said in making the ruling.
Survivors of the Sept. 4, 2005, shootings have said the officers fired at unarmed people crossing the Danziger Bridge to get food at a grocery store. Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old mentally disabled man, and James Brissette, 19, were shot and killed; four other people were wounded.
The officers acknowledged shooting at people on the bridge, but said they did so only after taking fire.
Katrina struck on Aug. 29, 2005. In its aftermath, levees broke, flooding 80 percent of New Orleans. Chaos gripped the city, and looting was reported in some areas. Rescuers said they thought gunfire was directed at them.
Later investigation revealed that at least some of the shooting was by residents trapped by floodwater trying to attract the attention of rescue parties.