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Officers surrender in Katrina bridge shooting

Seven police officers charged in a deadly bridge shooting in the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina turned themselves last week at the city jail, where at least 200 emotional supporters met them in a show of solidarity.


Sgt. Robert Gisevius Jr., left, hugs a fellow officer as he and six other New Orleans police officers turn themselves in at the city jail in New Orleans Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2007. Seven officers have been charged in connection with deadly shootings at the Danziger Bridge during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
-AP

Each of the indicted men faces at least one charge of murder or attempted murder in the Sept. 4, 2005, shootings on the Danziger Bridge less than a week after the hurricane hit New Orleans. Two people died and four people were wounded.

Defense attorneys say the seven officers are innocent.

As the men arrived at the jail, supporters lined the street, stepping forward to embrace the seven men and shake their hands.

One protester shouted "Police killings must stop" and "Racism must go" but was shouted down by the crowd yelling: "Heroes, Heroes."

"These men stayed here to protect our city and protect us and this is the thanks that is given to them," said Ryan Maher, 34, of New Orleans, who described himself as a civilian with friends in the police department.

"It's a serious injustice," said Sgt. Henry Kuhn of the Harahan Police Department, one of several suburban uniformed officers in the crowd.

Sgts. Kenneth Bowen and Robert Gisevius Jr., officer Anthony Villavaso II and former officer Robert Faulcon Jr., were charged with first-degree murder. Officers Robert Barrios and Mike Hunter Jr. were charged with attempted first-degree murder, and Ignatius Hills was charged with attempted second-degree murder.

A judge said there would be no bail for the four accused of first-degree murder.

Bail will be $100,000 per count for the other three officers.

Hunter posted bail Tuesday. Michael Glasser, president of the Police Association of New Orleans, said the two others couldn't immediately post bail in part because banks were closed for the national day of mourning for the late President Ford.

The officers were arraigned Friday.

Defense attorneys said they were assured that the men would be kept separate from the general population of the jail.

Hills' brother Darren Hills was among those outside the jail Tuesday morning.

"It took everybody by surprise. Totally blindsided by the decision," he said of the charges.

A first-degree murder conviction carries a possible death sentence. A spokesman for District Attorney Eddie Jordan said Tuesday that prosecutors haven't decided yet whether to seek the death penalty in the case.

The facts of what happened on the bridge, which links the Industrial Canal between the Gentilly neighborhood and eastern New Orleans, remain murky.

Police say the officers were responding to a report of other officers down when they came under fire. Police also say one of the men, Ronald Madison, was reaching for a gun. Madison, a 40-year-old mentally retarded man, and James Brissette, 19, were killed on the bridge.

The coroner said Madison was shot seven times, with five wounds in the back, but the officers' attorneys said all the wounds could have come from a single shotgun blast.

Madison's brother Lance, who was also on the bridge and was cleared of attempted murder charges, denies he or his brother was armed.

Six of the officers were suspended without pay pending the outcome of the case. The seventh, Faulcon, has left the department and is now a truck driver in Houston, said his attorney, Franz Zibilich.

CHRON.COM

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