Shots on the Bridge: Police Violence and Cover-up in the Wake of Katrina
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Named one of the top books of 2015 by NewsOne Now, and named one of the best books of August 2015 by Apple
Winner of the 2015 Investigative Reporters and Editors Book Award
A harrowing story of blue on black violence, of black lives that seemingly did not matter.
On September 4, 2005, six days after Hurricane Katrina’s landfall in New Orleans, two groups of people intersected on the Danziger Bridge, a low-rising expanse over the Industrial Canal. One was the police who had stayed behind as Katrina roared near, desperate to maintain control as their city spun into chaos. The other was the residents forced to stay behind with them during the storm and, on that fateful Sunday, searching for the basics of survival: food, medicine, security. They collided that morning in a frenzy of gunfire.
When the shooting stopped, a gentle forty-year-old man with the mind of a child lay slumped on the ground, seven bullet wounds in his back, his white shirt turned red. A seventeen-year-old was riddled with gunfire from his heel to his head. A mother’s arm was blown off; her daughter’s stomach gouged by a bullet. Her husband’s head was pierced by shrapnel. Her nephew was shot in the neck, jaw, stomach, and hand. Like all the other victims, he was black—and unarmed.
Before the blood had dried on the pavement, the shooters, each a member of the New Orleans Police Department, and their supervisors hatched a cover-up. They planted a gun, invented witnesses, and charged two of their victims with attempted murder. At the NOPD, they were hailed as heroes.
Shots on the Bridge explores one of the most dramatic cases of police violence seen in our country in the last decade—the massacre of innocent people, carried out by members of the NOPD, in the brutal, disorderly days following Hurricane Katrina. It reveals the fear that gripped the police of a city slid into anarchy, the circumstances that drove desperate survivors to the bridge, and the horror that erupted when the police opened fire. It carefully unearths the cover-up that nearly buried the truth. And finally, it traces the legal maze that, a decade later, leaves the victims and their loved ones still searching for justice.
This is the story of how the people meant to protect and serve citizens can do violence, hide their tracks, and work the legal system as the nation awaits justice.
From the Hardcover edition.
he heard the lieutenant say. The cover-up took full bloom, and the shooters themselves could see the police narrative unfolding as clearly as the Sunday morning sky. “I mean, it was pretty obvious that they were initiating a cover-up,” Hunter said. “They didn’t separate us and ask us questions individually. Nothing was collected from the scene.” Over the coming days, weeks, and months, the NOPD began crafting multiple written versions of what happened atop the bridge. Versions, plural, because
people just showed up in a truck and started shooting at us.” Fisher, Fay, and their defense investigator would look under every rock and follow to the end every thread they could find to test whether the law enforcement version of events was true: that Lance Madison was an attempted murderer. “This family is the salt of the earth. They got hammered,” Fisher told me. “If that had been you and I going across that bridge, that would not have happened.” By the time he and Fay finished peering
to raise her right arm, put her left hand on the Bible, and swear to tell the truth. Bartholomew, wearing a shawl over her clothes, didn’t respond as requested, and the bailiff asked again. Finally she whispered to the court officer. She had no right arm to raise. It had been shot off on the bridge. Bartholomew raised her left hand, and then told jurors, the bow-tied federal judge Kurt D. Engelhardt, and a full courtroom of the terror she and her family suffered that striking Sunday morning.
finally sees that I’m a terrific human being and not what you tried to make them believe. “I’m so happy to have closure.” Jose was “truly blessed to be here today,” he said. Not a single officer spoke. Instead, they let their attorneys, their families, and their fellow officers speak for them. “I think there was a lot of fear on top of the bridge that day,” said Eric Hessler, Gisevius’s lawyer. “I think the evidence is overwhelming that it was out of fear . . . not malice,” said Bowen’s
with thanks and a directive for more information. He wanted the names behind the identities, particularly that of “Dispos.” A month after Horn’s first report that January, the judge sent him thirteen follow-up questions to answer. What duties did “Dispos” handle for the DOJ, and who were this person’s superiors? What inquiries have been made into other online postings, beyond the NOLA.com site? Horn came back in March with more answers. The judge was not satisfied. “The March 29, 2013 First