|A witness told how New Orleans police shot him as he lay wounded on Danziger Bridge [GALLO/GETTY]|
A survivor of an alleged police shooting in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina has described how an officer shot him as he lay on the ground.
Five police officers are on trial over the incident, which left two people dead and four more severely wounded, and an alleged subsequent cover-up.
Robert Faulcon, Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, Anthony Villavaso and Arthur Kaufman face civil rights violations and obstruction of justice charges. The trial is expected to last several months.
Jose Holmes told the trial on Wednesday how he was shot several times as he lay bleeding on Danziger Bridge.
“I kind of figured if they saw us lying on the ground, they wouldn’t shoot us,” Holmes said.
Holmes said he saw the shadow of “the barrel of a gun” pass over him. “I looked away and tried to brace myself for the shot.”
Holmes suffered gunshot wounds to the neck, abdomen, legs and arms.
Testifying earlier in the trial, Holmes’ aunt, Susan Bartholomew, whose injuries as a consequence of the incident required the amputation of her right arm, described how her arm had been “shot off”.
‘Things didn’t add up’
Earlier on Wednesday, Lieutenant Michael Lohman, the ranking officer on duty (who was not at the scene), testified that he had encouraged officers to “get their story together” because “they seemed to be unsure of what actually happened… Things didn’t add up.”
Tom Ackerman reports on the Danziger Bridge trial
“I felt things had gone wrong on the bridge that day and inappropriate actions had been taken.”
While he says he did not tell officers to make up a story, he said he and an officer discussed a plan to plant a gun, and the other officer assured him the planted gun couldn’t be traced back to police or a crime scene.
He also said that he submitted a false report on the incident.
Lohman faces a maximum of five years in prison if convicted of the charges against him, after reportedly making a deal to testify against officers, shortening his potential jail time from up to 30 years.
Jurors also watched a dramatic video of parts of the incident, showing a rental truck full of police arriving at the bridge and officers jumping out with guns in hand.
Quoted by local journalist Jordan Flaherty, Eddie Jordan, the city’s former district attorney, said that the Danziger Bridge trial would finally make visible alleged corruption at the NOPD.
“This trial is going to show the country and the world that we have a serious problem with our police department… This department is engaged in horrendous acts against its citizens,” he said.
“Fish starts rotting at the head,” adds Jordan. “It’s not surprising that there was a cover-up. You just have to wonder how far that cover-up went.”
The trial is the most well known of nine New Orleans police brutality cases being investigated by the federal government as part of its 158-page report, which stated, “Basic elements of effective policing — clear policies, training, accountability and confidence of the citizenry — have been absent for years.”