By Charlotte Young
The case of the Danziger Bridge shootings in post-Katrina New Orleans is a story laden with accusations of police cover-ups and racism. For some, it’s further proof of the “open season on black people after Katrina.”
Only one thing is certain: it left two people dead and four maimed.
On Wednesday, the validity of that statement may come to light as the case goes to trial and the truth of what really happened begins to unfold.
According to NPR, the Danziger Bridge shootings have been called the “biggest police abuse case in the modern history of the New Orleans Police Department.” Federal prosecutors allege that police officers abused their power, resulting in the death of two unarmed civilians and the maiming of four others as they attempted to escape Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters.
The incident took place on Sept. 4, 2005, six days after the city was underwater. Police say they were responding to a call that civilians were shooting at police and were simply returning fire. Civilians say they were attempting to cross the half-mile long bridge when police opened fire. Seventeen-year-old James Brisette was killed as well as Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old mentally and physically disabled man.
Madison’s brother, Lance Madison, and Susan Bartholomew, whose right arm was shot off during the shooting, are both set to testify. Former New Orleans police officer Michael Hunter is also expected to testify. In a sworn affidavit, Hunter describes officer “unjustified use of force” as well as an elaborate police cover-up.
Capt. Mike Glasser, president of the 800-member Police Association of New Orleans, emphasizes that even if the officers on trial are found guilty, they only represent a small minority in an “honorable, hard-working police force.