New Orleans police to show support Tuesday for 7 officers charged in deadly bridge shootings

Published 7:32 pm Tuesday, January 2, 2007

The city’s police union urged its members to support seven fellow police officers charged in deadly shootings on a bridge during the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Last Thursday, a grand jury indicted the officers on murder or attempted murder charges stemming from the Sept. 4, 2005 shootings on the Danziger Bridge that killed two men and wounded four other people.

All seven officers planned to report to jail as a group on Tuesday morning, attorneys for two of the officers said Monday. The Fraternal Order of Police is encouraging other rank-and-file officers to gather outside the jail to show their support for the officers when they arrive.

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“You can expect to see a tremendous amount of support from fellow officers,” said Franz Zibilich, attorney for former officer Robert Faulcon, who resigned from the force after the shootings.

Faulcon, Sgt. Kenneth Bowen and officers Robert Gisevius and Anthony Villavaso are charged with first-degree murder. Officers Robert Barrios and Mike Hunter were charged with attempted first-degree murder, and Ignatius Hills was charged with attempted second-degree murder.

A judge said there would be no bond for the four accused of first-degree murder. Bond will be $100,000 per count for the other three officers.

The officers are scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday. At that hearing, lawyers for the four officers charged with first-degree murder plan to seek bond for their clients, according to Zibilich and Frank DeSalvo, Bowen’s attorney.

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

Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old mentally retarded man, and James Brissette, 19, were shot and killed on the bridge. The coroner said Madison was shot seven times, with five wounds in the back.

The facts of what happened on the Danziger Bridge remain murky. Police say that the officers were responding to a report of other officers down, and that they thought Madison had been reaching for a gun.

Madison’s brother, Lance, who was cleared by the grand jury of attempted murder charges, denies he or his brother were armed.

Lance Madison said he and his brother were running from a group of teens who had opened fire on the bridge when seven men jumped out of a rental truck and also began firing at them without warning. The men didn’t identify themselves as police officers, Madison said.

On Friday, the department suspended the officers without pay pending the outcome of the case and a review by Police Superintendent Warren Riley.