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Indicted N.O. Cops Greeted As 'Heroes'

More than 200 supporters applauded as seven indicted policemen arrived at a jail Tuesday to face charges in a deadly bridge shooting amid the chaos that followed Hurricane Katrina.

Each of the indicted men faces at least one charge of murder or attempted murder in the shootings of six people on the Danziger Bridge on Sept. 4, 2005, less than a week after the hurricane hit.

One protester shouted "Police killings must stop" and "Racism must go" as the men arrived, but the protester was shouted down by the crowd yelling: "Heroes, Heroes."

Uniformed police officers from nearby districts joined other supporters embracing the seven policemen and shaking their hands. The Fraternal Order of Police had encouraged rank-and-file officers to gather outside the jail to show their support. One sign in the crowd read, "Support the Danziger 7." Another read: "Thanks for protecting our city."

"These men stayed here to protect our city and protect us and this is the thanks that is given to them," said Ryan Maher, 34, of New Orleans, who described himself as a civilian with friends in the police department.

"It's a serious injustice," said Sgt. Henry Kuhn of the Harahan Police Department, one of several uniformed officers from the New Orleans suburbs who joined the crowd.

The first person to show up outside the jail was Darren Hills, whose brother, Ignatius Hills, was indicted on one count of attempted second-degree murder.

"It took everybody by surprise. Totally blindsided by the decision," Darren Hills said of the charges. He said the family would post bail for his brother as soon as possible.

Two men died and four people were wounded in the gunfire on the bridge that spans the Industrial Canal.

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

A judge said there would be no bond for the four accused of first-degree murder. Bond will be $100,000 per count for the other three officers.

The officers are scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday. At that hearing, lawyers for the four officers charged with first-degree murder plan to seek bond for their clients, said Frank DeSalvo, Bowen's attorney.

A first-degree murder conviction carries a possible death sentence. A spokesman for District Attorney Eddie Jordan said Monday that prosecutors haven't decided yet whether to seek the death penalty in the case.

The facts of what happened on the Bridge, which connects the Gentilly neighborhood with eastern New Orleans, remain murky. Police say the officers were responding to a report of other officers down and that they thought one of the men, Ronald Madison, had been reaching for a gun.

Madison, a 40-year-old mentally retarded man, and James Brissette, 19, were shot and killed on the bridge. The coroner said Madison was shot seven times, with five wounds in the back.

Madison's brother, Lance, who was cleared by the grand jury of attempted murder charges, denies he or his brother were armed.

Lance Madison said he and his brother were running from a group of teens who had opened fire on the bridge when seven men jumped out of a rental truck and also began firing at them without warning. The men didn't identify themselves as police officers, Madison said.

On Friday, the department suspended the officers without pay pending the outcome of the case and a review by Police Superintendent Warren Riley.

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