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Cops could face death penalty in Katrina bridge shootings

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By The Staff

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Four New Orleans police officers could face the death penalty after being accused of gunning down two unarmed people in the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in the latest twist for a corruption-plagued department that already faces several federal investigations.

The four officers were charged along with two others in a 27-count indictment unsealed Tuesday.

The indictment charges Sgts. Robert Gisevius and Kenneth Bowen, officer Anthony Villavaso and former officer Robert Faulcon with deprivation of rights under color of law and use of a weapon during the commission of a crime. They could face the death penalty if convicted, though U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said prosecutors haven't decided whether to seek that punishment.

Five former New Orleans police officers already have pleaded guilty to helping cover up the shootings on the Danziger Bridge that left two men dead and four wounded just days after the August 2005 hurricane that devastated the city. In one instance, a mentally disabled man was allegedly shot in the back and stomped before he died.

Prosecutors say officers fabricated witness statements, falsified reports and planted a gun in an attempt to make it appear the shootings were justified. It was a shocking example of the violence and confusion that followed the deadly hurricane.


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