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Bridges To Cross

Few things illustrate how quickly everything can turn to shit like the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.  At first, everyone cheered this triumph of the human spirit, how people survived despite the hurricane, the flooding, the disaster.  But shortly after that, it became one of the biggest fuck ups in human history.  No water for people in the Superdome.  Newspapers showing black people "looting" stores and showing white people "scavenging" supplies for their families.  You're doing a heck of a job, Brownie.  Red tape for people trying to get to their homes.  God wants a "chocolate" New Orleans.  Sir Charles Barkley was there doing volunteer work, and paid for some people to go to family around the country because everyone there was poor and had no money.  Seriously.  Anyone with money left before the storm hit, all that was left were people with no jobs and ruined lives.

Overlooked by the national media but alive and well in the local press was the Danziger Bridge shootings.  It was one of nine Justice Department investigations into the New Orleans Police Department.  It happened on September 4, 2005, one week after Katrina hit.  A radio distress call said officers were under fire on the Danziger Bridge, a portion of Chef Menteur Highway (Interstate 10) that spans the Industrial Canal.  Cops piled into a Budget rent-a-truck and raced to the scene.  Officer Michael Hunter, the driver, fired warning shots out the window as they neared the location.  On the east side of the bridge, the cops jumped out and opened fire.  They hit and killed James Brissette (17) and wounded four more, Jose Holmes (19), his aunt Susan Bartholomew, his uncle Leonard Bartholomew III, and a teenage cousin Lesha Bartholomew.  Brissette was shot several times, from the heel of his foot to his head, and was killed by shotgun pellets that struck the back of his head. Susan Bartholomew's arm was nearly blown off by a large-caliber round -- it had to be amputated. Her daughter's legs were torn apart by bullets.  Holmes was struck multiple times in the face, chest, and abdomen, and needed a colostomy bag for years.  Roland and Lance Madison were walking on the bridge when the shooting started and immediately took off to get away from there.  The police gave chase.  Roland was wounded, then killed with a shotgun blast by Officer Robert Faulcon.  Lance was jailed for allegedly shooting at the police.

The Danziger shootings were trumpeted as a victory for the police in restoring order to the Dodge City that New Orleans had become.  But a grand jury didn't buy it, and an investigation started, charging the officers with murder or attempted murder.  The "Danzier Seven" turned themselves in in January 2007.  Other cops stood with them in solidarity, calling them heroes and patting them on the back.  In 2008, a judge dismissed the charges, and the state case fell apart.

The feds stepped up, and apparently did very well -- five officers grassed on their fellow "heroes", three of them directly involved in the shootings and admitting they fired at civilians and found no evidence of weapons among the crowd afterward.  The result was exposure of a stunning cover-up.  There was a secret meeting to get their stories straight.  Officers revising their accounts of the shootings.  Phony witnesses.  A planted gun retrieved by Officer Arthur Kaufman from his garage.  Five officers wound up facing court.

On Friday, the feds planted all five of them.  The only charges that didn't stick were the murder charges.

Sometimes, the good guys do win.

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