Not Guilty Pleas in Hurricane Katrina Bridge Shooting

Not Guilty Pleas From Four New Orleans Cops in Hurricane Katrina Bridge Shooting
James Brisette, one of the two people killed Sept. 4, 2005, allegedly by New Orleans Police officers. (CBS)

NEW ORLEANS, (CBS/AP) It's one of the more horrific stories to come out of the Hurricane Katrina disaster - two unarmed men gunned down, four others wounded, allegedly at the hands of police officers.

Now four New Orleans police officers stand charged with multiple criminal counts including the murder of 17-year-old James Brisette.

The Danziger Bridge shootings happened Sept. 4, 2005, just six days after Hurricane Katrina tore across the south, overwhelming New Orleans' famous levies and drowning the city in water.

It was in this setting that police say they were called at about 9 a.m. the morning of Sept. 4, 2005 after receiving reports of gunfire at the bridge. They say they were just trying to restore order in a city gripped by chaos.

Seven heavily armed New Orleans police officers stormed Danziger Bridge.

Prosecutors said they shot at the first people they saw, people prosecutors say were crossing the bridge to find food.

An unidentified police officer turns the body of a man killed by police at the Danziger Bridge in New Orleans
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)

On Wednesday, Sgts. Robert Gisevius and Kenneth Bowen and Officer Anthony Villavaso stood in green prison garb, shackled at the waist and ankles, as Magistrate Louis Moore Jr. read the counts - 13 against Bowen, 11 against Gisevius and 10 against Villavaso - which carry a maximum sentence of life in prison or the death penalty, although U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said the Justice Department hasn't decided whether to seek the latter punishment.

They all pleaded not guilty.

A fourth man, former officer Robert Faulcon, made his initial court appearance Tuesday in Texas, where he was arrested, but has not entered a plea. He faces charges similar to the other three and could also face the death penalty.

The indictment claims Faulcon shot mentally disabled Ronald Madison, 40, in the back as he ran away on the west side of the bridge. Bowen is charged with stomping and kicking Madison while he was lying on the ground, wounded but still alive.

Bowen, Gisevius, Faulcon and Villavaso also are accused of shooting at an unarmed family on the east side of the bridge, killing 17-year-old James Brissette and wounding four others.

A tentative trial date is set for Sept. 13.

July 14, 2010 - Katrina Shooting Indictments Could Lead to Death Penalty