WASHINGTON – A former officer with the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD), has been sentenced to eight years in prison for conspiracy to obstruct justice and for misprision of a felony (for concealing a known crime), in connection with a federal investigation of two police-involved shootings that left two civilians dead and four others seriously wounded in the area of the Danziger Bridge in the days after Hurricane Katrina. In addition, Michael Hunter was ordered to pay a $2,500 fine and serve three years supervised release. On April 7, 2010, Hunter, 33, entered a guilty plea in federal court in New Orleans before U.S. District Court Judge Sarah S. Vance.
According to court documents, Hunter drove to the Danziger Bridge on Sept. 4, 2005, in a large Budget rental truck carrying officers in response to a radio call that said officers on the nearby I-10 bridge had come under fire. Hunter has admitted that officers on the east side of the Danziger Bridge fired at civilians even though the civilians did not appear to have any weapons. According to Hunter, one officer (Sergeant A) leaned over a concrete barrier, held out an assault rifle and, in a sweeping motion, fired repeatedly at the civilians, who were at that point lying wounded and apparently unarmed on the ground. Hunter also has admitted that he fired his weapon repeatedly at civilians who were running away over the bridge. In addition, Hunter has acknowledged that he did not see any weapons on these civilians, and that the civilians did not appear to pose a threat to officers as they ran up the bridge.
Hunter further admitted that he was present on the west side of the Danziger Bridge when an officer, identified as Officer A, shot and killed Ronald Madison, a civilian who was running away from officers with his hands in view, and did not have a weapon or pose a threat. Without warning, Officer A fired a shotgun at Madison’s back as Madison ran toward a motel at the bottom of bridge. Hunter also has described watching Sergeant A physically abuse Ronald Madison as he lay on the ground injured, but still alive.
Hunter has admitted that, in the wake of the shootings on the Danziger Bridge, he participated in a conspiracy to cover up the truth about what happened on the bridge. Specifically, he admitted, among other things, that he and other officers provided false statements about what happened on the Danziger Bridge; that before giving formal statements on tape, he and other officers met in a gutted-out police station and discussed their false stories; and that he lied to a state grand jury about what happened on the Danziger Bridge.
This case, which is ongoing, is being investigated by the New Orleans Field Office of the FBI, and is being prosecuted by Deputy Chief Bobbi Bernstein and Trial Attorney Forrest Christian of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, along with Assistant U.S. Attorneys Julia K. Evans and Theodore Carter of the Eastern District of Louisiana.