NEW ORLEANS — The City of New Orleans has been making efforts to settle lawsuits in a couple of fatal police shooting instances that occurred after the destruction left by Hurricane Katrina.
One of the cases involves the death of 31-year-old Henry Glover who was shot on Sept. 2, 2005, by Officer David Warren while he was walking across the parking lot of a West Bank strip mall. William Tanner and a few other people found Glover after he'd been shot and took him to Algiers Elementary School where there was a makeshift police station to obtain medical assistance. However, media reports say that police beat Tanner and the others. Glover's body was later found in Tanner’s vehicle, which had been burned and left on the Mississippi River levee.
The second case involves a shooting by police on the Danziger Bridge on Sept. 4, 2005. Reports indicate the officers shot two unarmed black men, James Brissette, 17, and Ronald Madison, 40, who was mentally disabled. Four others were wounded in the incident including Susan Bartholomew, who lost her arm. The citizens were trying to cross the bridge at the time of the incident.
The five officers involved were Kenneth Bowen, Robert Faulcon, Robert Gisevius, Arthur Kaufman and Anthony Villavaso. They were initially indicted, but the charges were tossed out by Judge Raymond Bigelow. Following the incidents, the U.S. Department of Justice investigated and released a report that found the city’s police department had been "abusive and corrupt."
After being charged again, the officers known as the Danziger 7 were convicted and given varying prison sentences. However, after it was discovered that several top prosecutors from the U.S. attorney general’s office posted online comments about several cases, including the Danziger Bridge incident, a federal judge threw out the sentences.
The five officers were offered plea deals to avoid a new trial. In the plea deal, Bowen was to serve 10 years, Faulcon 12 years, Gisevius 10 years and Kaufman three years, but was given credit for time served, and Villavaso seven years with credit for six years served.
In an apparent attempt to settle with the families of the victims, the city has asked the 15 plaintiffs to document their losses and expenses and submit a proposal settlement. According to the Louisiana Weekly, the city plans to borrow $10 million next year to help pay the costs. Coupled with a $10 million certificate of indebtedness, the city expects to have $20 million to cover the legal expenses from this case and other civil lawsuits.
Lawyer and former police officer Peter Russell said he believed it was a good idea to settle, so the community could put the events behind them and heal.
“People settle for a variety of reasons,” Russell told the Louisiana Record. “They settle because they were wrong or they could settle to save costs with litigation or sometimes they settle to save face."
Russell said that if parties continually fight, you fight a process and it looks like you are trying to conceal it.
"It looks like you are trying to make excuses for, in this case, a lot of people, many people would say to be inexcusable," he said.
Russell said that would not help the city with its brand. Russell also said the city has had a problem of trust within departments since the 1980s.
“So, they really need to put it to bed. That is the right choice to be made here," he said.