Constitutional Law

Cop Pleads in Katrina Shootings Probe; 'Like a Script from Hollywood'

A retired New Orleans police officer pleaded guilty today to conspiring to obstruct justice concerning a cover-up of the shooting deaths of two unarmed civilians on the city’s Danziger Bridge in 2005, in the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Lt. Michael Lohman’s plea is the first in an ongoing federal investigation of the officers responsible for the bridge shootings, those who investigated the bridge shootings and those who may have been involved in other incidents in New Orleans at the time, according to the Associated Press and the New York Times. He will be sentenced in May.

Officials say in court documents that Lohman knew another officer planned to plant a gun at the bridge scene and took over the drafting of a 17-page false report of the incident after becoming dissatisfied with an earlier effort by another investigator. He also reportedly urged officers to dispose of shell casings.

Although police apparently may have received a warning that citizens crossing the bridge at the time of the fatal shootings were armed, the victims were not and no shots were fired except by police in the bridge incident, the articles say. As it now appears, the warning was one of a number of false rumors of actual and potential post-Katrina violence by lawless citizens that, in fact, never occurred.

“It’s pretty incredible stuff, says attorney Gary Bizal, who represents another civilian who says he was shot several times but survived. “It’s like a script from Hollywood.”

U.S. Attorney Jim Letten calls the case “a pretty elaborate ongoing conspiracy,” the AP reports, and says the evidence will be followed wherever it leads.

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