Trial opens for cops charged in post-Katrina killings

NEW ORLEANS — On a brisk January morning in 2007, seven New Orleans police officers waded through a crowd of cheering supporters outside the city's jail to face charges stemming from a deadly encounter with residents on a bridge in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath. Before they were booked, the grim-faced officers accepted hugs and handshakes from fellow cops who shouted, "Heroes! Heroes!"

Three of the officers who received the hero's welcome have admitted they were concealing a dark secret the day they surrendered.

Michael Hunter, Robert Barrios and Ignatius Hills, members of the so-called Danziger Seven — named after the bridge where police shot and killed two unarmed people and wounded four others — admitted participating in a coverup.

The other four members of the so-called Danziger Seven and another police investigator go on trial today on federal charges.

One officer is accused of fatally shooting a mentally disabled man in the back before a sergeant stomped on him. Prosecutors say the same sergeant, armed with an assault rifle, fired on wounded and unarmed people lying on the ground. All are accused of participating in a coverup that allegedly included a plot to plant a gun, fabricate witnesses and falsify reports.

The group was charged in state court with murder or attempted murder in December 2006, but a judge threw out all the charges in August 2008. Federal authorities then began their own investigation a month later, which led to charges against the Danziger Seven and four others.

Trial opens for cops charged in post-Katrina killings 06/21/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 22, 2011 12:13am]

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