Monday 1 May 2017

New Orleans pays almost €13m over Hurricane Katrina police killings

Mitch Landrieu apologised to the victims' families on behalf of the city, adding:
Mitch Landrieu apologised to the victims' families on behalf of the city, adding: "I am hoping that in some sense the strength of these families will help the city find peace in our future."
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

The mayor of New Orleans has announced the city has reached settlements totalling $13.3m (€12.8m) in lawsuits over deadly police shootings after Hurricane Katrina and a fatal beating just before the 2005 storm.

Speaking at a press conference, Mitch Landrieu apologised to the victims' families on behalf of the city, adding: "I am hoping that in some sense the strength of these families will help the city find peace in our future."

Mr Landrieu said settlements were made with 17 plaintiffs.

Sherrel Johnson, the mother of 17-year-old James Brissette, who died in shootings on the Danziger Bridge on September 4 2005, was among the relatives on hand for Mr Landrieu's announcement.

She said she "wholeheartedly" accepted his apology.

"Since that time, it has been an awful long and rough road. But me and my family got through it," she said. Later, she added, "Now this is closure for me, and I can go forward ... because I know the old New Orleans does not exist any more."

A total of 20 current or former New Orleans police officers were charged in a series of Justice Department civil rights investigations following the August 2005 storm. All but one of the cases centred on alleged police misconduct during the chaos that gripped the flooded city.

Eleven officers pleaded guilty to charges related to deadly shootings on the Danziger Bridge less than a week after Katrina's landfall. Officers shot and killed two unarmed people and wounded four others on the bridge before engaging in a cover-up that included a planted gun, fabricated witnesses and falsified reports.

James and 40-year-old Ronald Madison, a mentally disabled man, died in the bridge shootings. Mr Madison's brother Lance was on the bridge that day and was initially arrested after being falsely accused of shooting at officers.

A federal judge who presided over a trial of five officers charged in the bridge shooting threw out their convictions in 2013. US District Judge Kurt Engelhardt said at least three government lawyers posted anonymous comments on a New Orleans newspaper's website, creating a "carnival atmosphere" that "distorted and perverted" justice in the case.

Judge Engelhardt ordered a new trial for the five officers, who ultimately pleaded guilty in April. Lawsuits over the bridge shootings had been placed on hold while the criminal cases were pending.

Five other officers were tried on charges related to the death of 31-year-old Henry Glover, who was shot outside a strip mall before his body was burned.

Former officer Gregory McRae, who burned Mr Glover's body in a car, is the only officer whose conviction in the case still stands. McRae is serving a prison sentence of more than 11 years.

The officer who shot Mr Glover was convicted of manslaughter but was later acquitted by another jury after an appeals court awarded him a new trial.

Two former New Orleans police officers were convicted of charges stemming from the fatal beating of Raymond Robair, a 48-year-old handyman who died less than a month before Katrina struck.

Melvin Williams was sentenced to more than 21 years for kicking Mr Robair and beating him with a baton. Matthew Dean Moore was sentenced to more than five years for submitting a false report and lying to the FBI about the encounter.

Mr Robair's relatives sued the city and former police superintendent Eddie Compass.

LaShonda Enclade, Mr Robair's daughter, attended the press conference. She said she forgives the city, but forgiving the officers is more difficult.

"The word forgive is a very, very hard word. I'm not going to say I can ever forgive them. It's something to be worked on," she said.

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