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A New Orleans grand jury has indicted seven city police officers on charges of murder or attempted murder. The indictments stem from a series of shootings on a New Orleans bridge less than a week after Hurricane Katrina. Lawyers for the police officers say the shootings were justified.
NPR's Adam Hochberg reports.
ADAM HOCHBERG: The shootings on an East New Orleans bridge left two men dead and four wounded under circumstances that remain cloudy. According to police reports, officers encountered a dangerous situation when they arrived at the bridge on September 4th, 2005. They say several people opened fire on them, forcing police to shoot back in self defense. But victims' families and several witnesses tell a different story. They say the victims were neither armed nor dangerous and that they fell prey to a group of trigger-happy police.
Yesterday's indictments suggest the grand jury agrees with the families' version of events. Four of the officers now stand accused of first degree murder. Three are charged with attempted murder.
Mary Howell is an attorney for one of the victim's families.
Ms. MARY HOWELL (Attorney): Finally it looks like the truth has a chance of coming out here. All that we heard for a long time was the police version of this. And there's an enormous sense of relief and hope that justice will prevail in this incident.
HOCHBERG: Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan, who sought the indictments, issued a statement yesterday saying, in his words, we cannot allow our police officers to shoot and kill our citizens like rabid dogs.
But lawyers for the officers maintain their clients are innocent, and some people in the law enforcement community said the officers are being prosecuted and demonized unfairly.
Lieutenant Michael Glasser, of the Police Association of New Orleans, accused the district attorney of presenting selective evidence to the grand jury, and he called the DA's statement disgusting.
Lieutenant MICHAEL GLASSER (Police Association of New Orleans): I hope the public doesn't allow our first responders - the people that stayed when the public expected the police to stay and protect, and they did. And when they are fired upon and defend themselves, this is their reward. And I hope the public doesn't allow that kind of treatment to its first responders.
HOCHBERG: New Orleans Police Superintendent Warren Riley called the day of the shooting one of the darkest and saddest in the city's history, but he urged residents to refrain from making hasty judgments about the allegations, and to allow the legal process to play out. A judge yesterday ordered the four officers who were charged with first degree murder to be held without bond. That charge carries a possible death sentence.
Adam Hochberg, NPR News, New Orleans.
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