FBI raids NOLA police over Katrina killings
(RAW STORY) Nearly four years after the police shootout that took the lives of Ronald Madison and James Brissette on New Orleans’ Danziger Bridge, the FBI raided the offices of the police investigators who had been looking into the deadly incident.
The bureau’s move suggests that the federal government may be serious about seeing police officers prosecuted over the Sept. 4, 2005 shootout, when Madison and Brissette were allegedly killed by police and four others wounded as they crossed a bridge in the midst of the Hurricane Katrina crisis.
It also suggests the FBI may be worried that New Orleans police are trying — or may in the future try — to destroy evidence of what happened that day.
According to ProPublica, “the police officers involved say they began shooting in response to gunfire from the civilians; that claim is vigorously disputed by the shooting victims.”
“Survivors of the high-profile shooting incident have said they were unarmed and ambushed by officers on the bridge, who came to the site because they heard a radio call that described other police officers in distress,” the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported last year. “But police officers have maintained that police were in a firefight, shooting only after they were fired upon.”
According to an article in Friday’s Times-Picayune, FBI agents seized “the files and computer hard drives of two officers assigned to investigate police conduct” in the incident.
Last year, the federal government announced it would be investigating the possibility of federal charges against some or all of the officers involved in the shootout, after a state prosecution of the incident fell apart.
According to New Orleans TV station WDSU, the “investigation had been years in the making and the probe into the police department is broader than the events that happened on the Danziger Bridge that left two dead and four wounded.”
Harry Rosenberg, a former US attorney, told WDSU that FBI raids on police homicide squads are rare. “It’s done when the FBI believes evidence may be destroyed if officers or other individuals become aware of a criminal investigation and are likely to dispose of electronic data or paper evidence that might assist the FBI in its investigation,” Rosenberg said.
WDSU also stated that the federal investigation would look at “the police-involved shooting of Adolph Grimes on New Year’s Eve and the death of Henry Glover, whose body was found in a burned out car in the days after Hurricane Katrina.”
The Times-Picayune reported in June that federal authorities are investigating Glover’s death. According to the paper, the owner of the car in which Glover’s body was found said he last saw it in the possession of the New Orleans police, before it was found burned with Glover’s body inside.
“A community group that has been monitoring each of the cases said it’s glad to see the FBI push for more information,” WDSU reported.
“This has been a long time coming,” Evelyn Lynn of the activist group Safe Streets Strong Communities told WDSU. “The police department here has been in crisis for a long time. Having federal help is going to help a lot in terms of the cases and the reforms that we need to make in the department.”