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Katrina Shooting Indictments Could Lead to Death Penalty

An unidentified police officer turns the body of a man killed by police at the Danziger Bridge in New Orleans. (AP/Times Picayune/Alex Brandon)
(AP/Times Picayune/Alex Brandon)
A police officer turns the body of a man killed by police at the Danziger Bridge in New Orleans. (AP/Times Picayune/Alex Brandon)

NEW ORLEANS (CBS/AP) Four New Orleans police officers have been charged with deprivation of rights under color of law and use of a weapon during the commission of a crime for shootings that occurred during the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The charges stem from shootings that occurred on the Danziger Bridge in New Orleans, which left two men dead and four wounded.

The four officers could face the death penalty if convicted, though U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said prosecutors haven't decided whether to seek that punishment.

The indictment claims officer Robert Faulcon, who resigned shortly after the storm, shot 40-year-old Ronald Madison, who had severe mental disabilities, in the back as the man ran away on the west side of the Danziger bridge. Sgt. Kenneth Bowen is charged with stomping and kicking Madison while he was lying on the ground, wounded but still alive.

Bowen and Faulcon - along with Sgt. Robert Gisevius and officer Anthony Villavaso - are also accused of shooting at an unarmed family on the east side of the bridge, killing 17-year-old James Brissette and wounding four others. The four officers are also charged with participating in a cover-up of a the shootings.

Sgt. Arthur Kaufman and retired Sgt. Gerard Dugue, who helped investigate the shootings, were charged with participating in a cover-up to make it appear the shootings were justified. Charges against them include obstruction of justice.

The 27-count indictment was unsealed Tuesday.

Eric Hessler, a lawyer for Gisevius, said the indictment wasn't a surprise. "We have long anticipated that this day may come," he said.

Claude Kelly, a lawyer for Dugue, called it "a travesty" and denied his client participated in a cover-up, saying, "This is just overreaching, Monday morning quarterbacking by the government."

Faulcon was arrested at his home in Houston. Gisevius, Bowen and Villavaso surrendered at FBI headquarters in New Orleans.

U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said prosecutors will ask for all four of them to be detained.

Kaufman and Dugue weren't arrested. A date for the men's initial court appearances wasn't immediately set.