Seven years in the making, one of the most horrible stories of Hurricane Katrina has finally reached a conclusion.
During the aftermath of Katrina in 2005, five New Orleans police officers were involved in a shooting of civilians on the Danzinger bridge, murdering two in the process, and then subsequently covering it up.
Each of the five have now been sentenced.
Robert Faulcon Jr., 48, received the stiffest sentence: 65 years in prison. Faulcon is the only officer tied to the second of the two fatal shootings on the bridge — that of Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old mentally challenged man. Madison was felled by a shotgun blast to the back fired by Faulcon on the western side of the bridge.
Former Sgt. Kenneth Bowen, 38, was sentenced to 40 years in prison. Bowen sat in the front passenger seat as a Budget rental truck full of officers sped to the bridge on the morning of Sept. 4, 2005. Prosecutors said Bowen jumped out of the truck and sprayed an AK-47 at a concrete barrier where civilians were hiding. The jury also convicted him of stomping on Madison as he lay dying, though Engelhardt later threw out that conviction, citing a lack of physical evidence.
Former Sgt. Robert Gisevius Jr., 39, was sentenced to 40 years in prison. Gisevius was one of several officers who rode to the bridge in the back of the Budget truck. He opened fire with an M-4 rifle after jumping out the back of the truck, and later, with Bowen and the investigators, helped orchestrate a years-long cover-up to hide what actually happened on the bridge.
Anthony Villavaso II, 35, was sentenced to 38 years in prison. He, too, rode in the back of the Budget truck, and then jumped out and fired an AK-47 at unarmed civilians on the bridge. Nine casings matching that AK-47 were recovered by investigators.
Kaufman, 55, a former sergeant at NOPD, was sentenced to six years in prison. He was the only one of the five defendants sentenced today who was not already incarcerated; Engelhardt ordered him to report to prison on May 23.
The story of the mentally challenged man shot in the back by a police officer while running for his life, a man who was 40 years old going on 8, remains one of the most infuriating and sad stories of our recent past.
It’s unfortunate it took this long to end, and I’m not sure if it would have if the Department of Justice were under different leadership.