Skip to main content
Home World U.S. Weather Business Sports Analysis Politics Law Tech Science Health Entertainment Offbeat Travel Education Specials Autos I-Reports
Law Center

New Orleans police indicted in bridge shootings

Story Highlights

NEW: Judge extends deadline for officers to turn themselves in
• Officers face charges of murder or attempted murder
• Two people were killed; one was mentally ill and was shot in the back
• Officers say they opened fire after a civilian reached for a gun; no weapon found
Adjust font size:
Decrease fontDecrease font
Enlarge fontEnlarge font

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (CNN) -- A deadly gunfight on a bridge in the anarchy-filled days following Hurricane Katrina became a symbol of the city's loss of control.

Now, more than a year later, seven police officers face charges in the shootings.

A grand jury indicted the officers on murder or attempted murder charges Thursday in the September 4, 2005, deaths of two men and wounding of four other people on the Danziger Bridge.

One of the victims was a mentally retarded man, Ronald Madison, who had been shot seven times -- five times in the back, according to the coroner. (Watch as Madison's brother talks about the night of the shooting Video)

"We cannot allow our police officers to shoot and kill our citizens without justification like rabid dogs," District Attorney Eddie Jordan said.

Police tell a different story, and defense attorneys say their clients are innocent. Police Superintendent Warren Riley called Jordan's comment was "highly prejudicial and highly undignified."

"They heard only one side of the story," attorney Franz Zibilich, who represents one of the officers, said of the grand jury.

According to police, the officers went to the bridge that day believing they were answering a call of two fellow officers down. One officer fired at Madison only after Madison turned toward them and reached into his waistband, they say.

As with many events in the days after Katrina struck, reports of what happened at the Danziger Bridge vary widely. At the time, the sweltering city was still littered with corpses as rescuers tried to evacuate stranded residents and looters ransacked stores. The storm had hit just six days earlier.

Police initially said the shootings occurred after shots were fired at Army Corps of Engineers workers.

According to a police report, several officers responded to a radio call that two fellow officers had been hurt. When they arrived, they saw seven people running, and four people began firing at police, the report said. The officers returned fire, killing Madison, 40, and James Brissette, 19.

Madison's brother, Lance, has said they were crossing the bridge on their way to another brother's dental office when a group of teens ran up behind them and began shooting. As the brothers fled, Lance Madison said, seven men jumped out of a rental truck and also began firing at them. He denies his brother was armed. (Full story)

Police Sgts. Kenneth Bowen and Robert Gisevius and officers Robert Faulcon and Anthony Villavaso were charged with first-degree murder. Officers Robert Barrios, Mike Hunter and Ignatius Hills were charged with attempted murder.

State District Judge Raymond Bigelow originally set a 24-hour deadline for the officers to surrender, but on Friday, he agreed to extend the deadline until Tuesday morning, said Frank DeSalvo, attorney for one of the defendants.

Gisevius' attorney, Eric Hessler, said Friday morning that some of the officers weren't in town. He wouldn't say which officers were away or how many of them.

A spokesman for Mayor Ray Nagin declined comment.

The indictments further scars the reputation of the city's police department. More than 200 officers on the 1,500-member force were disciplined after the hurricane for various offenses, including failure to show up for work, and some were accused of joining in the looting.

List of charges

The officers and the charges they face:

Sgt. Kenneth Bowen: one count of first-degree murder of Brissette and seven counts of attempted first-degree murder of Leonard Bartholomew, Susan Bartholomew, Lesha Bartholomew, Jose Holmes Jr., Lance Madison and Ronald Madison.

Sgt. Robert Gisevius: one count of first-degree murder of Brissette and two counts of attempted first-degree murder of the Madisons.

Officer Anthony Villavaso: one count of first-degree murder of Brissette and four counts of attempted first-degree murder of the Bartholomews and Holmes.

Officer Robert Faulcon: two counts of first-degree murder of Brissette and Ronald Madison and attempted first-degree murder of the Bartholomews and Holmes.

Officer Robert Barrios: four counts of attempted first-degree murder of the Bartholomews and Holmes.

Officer Michael Hunter: two counts of attempted first-degree murder of the Madisons.

Officer Ignatius Hills: one count of attempted second-degree murder of Leonard Bartholomew IV.



Find a local attorney at Martindale-Hubbell's®
Enter City:

or: Search by Lawyer's Name

Law Firm Marketing: Expert Help for Attorneys from
International Edition
CNN TV CNN International Headline News Transcripts Advertise with Us About Us Contact Us
© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
SERVICES » E-mails RSSRSS Feed PodcastsRadio News Icon CNNtoGo CNN Pipeline
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more