By A.C. Thompson, ProPublica
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder yesterday announced the indictment of six current or former New Orleans Police Department officers in connection to the Danziger Bridge shootings, which occurred during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The new indictments stem from the shooting of six civilians on Sept. 4, 2005 by a squad of police officers, a bloody episode that left two people dead and four severely wounded. Our partners at the New Orleans Times-Picayune have the details on the fresh charges here.
The troubled New Orleans police force -- which is the subject of at least eight ongoing investigations -- "is a priority for this Department of Justice," said Holder in a press conference streamed live on local TV news websites.
Since February, federal prosecutors have charged 16 current and former cops for offenses allegedly committed during the chaotic days after the levees failed, inundating the city and crippling the local government. So far, five have pleaded guilty.
Last month, federal investigators charged an officer with murdering Henry Glover, an offense that could carry the death penalty, and others with torching Glover's body and attempting to conceal the crime. Federal agents are also scrutinizing several other post-Katrina episodes, including the shootings of Keenon McCann, Danny Brumfield, Jr., and Matthew McDonald by cops.
One of the people indicted today played a role in several of these cases. Former NOPD Sergeant Gerard Dugue, who is accused of trying to cover up the true circumstances of the Danziger shootings, also investigated Glover's death and supervised the police department's probe into the killing of Brumfield, who died after being shot in the back at a close-range. This spring Dugue retired from his job as a homicide detective.
The Justice Department is also conducting a broader survey of the police force's policies, which could lead to federally supervised reform and restructuring of the department. In May, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who was elected earlier this year, invited Justice to conduct the review, saying in a letter that "I have inherited what is described by many as one of the worst police departments in the country."
(Image above, taken from video by WDSU news, shows U.S. Attorney Jim Letten and Attorney General Eric Holder at a New Orleans press conference announcing the indictments.)