US Attorney General Eric Holder has filed federal charges against six members of the New Orleans Police Department in connection with the murder of a mentally disabled man and a teenager after Hurricane Katrina. Rachel Maddow opened her show with this story tonight. This is, as she said, huge for the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast — and this is huge for the United States of America.
The indictment claims Faulcon shot 40-year-old Ronald Madison, who had severe mental disabilities, in the back as he ran away on the west side of the bridge. Bowen is charged with stomping and kicking Madison while he was lying on the ground, wounded but still alive. His brother, Lance Madison, was arrested and charged with trying to kill police officers. He was jailed for three weeks and released without being indicted. Bowen, Gisevius, Faulcon and Villavaso also are accused of shooting at an unarmed family on the east side of the bridge, killing 17-year-old James Brissette and wounding four others. All six officers are charged with participating in the cover-up.
“This indictment is a continuing reminder that the constitution and the rule of law do not take a holiday, even after a hurricane,” said Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division.
Attorney General Holder himself traveled to NOLa today.
In light of the ongoing disaster British Petroleum (BP) has perpetrated and continues to not fix correctly or completely in the Gulf, the first inklings of hope arise — it’s been nearly five years since Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. The original murder charges in this case were dropped in 2008. The policemen who slaughtered two men and shot four more thought they had gotten away with rampaging through a devastated city.
They were wrong.
The new batch of federal probes are bearing fruit as the city welcomes a new mayor, Mitch Landrieu, and his new police superintendant, Ronal Serpas. At Landrieu’s request, the Justice Department launched the top-to-bottom review of the department.
Mary Howell, a civil rights attorney who represents relatives of one of the Danziger bridge shooting victims, said the police department has been plagued by a pattern of “episodic crises” that have eluded lasting reforms.
“There is either a refusal or inability by local authorities to take care of them,” she said. “I think it’s a question of leadership. This stuff requires institutional changes that require the political leadership of the community to make it last.”
If the country can, indeed, look back and find cause for further prosecution here, it is not beyond the reach of hope that justice will reach out to Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, and George W. Bush.