Former New Orleans homicide detective Jeffrey Lehrmann testified that the police had planted weapons and made up two witnesses to cover up the shooting of two civilians almost a week after the floods from Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.
Lehrmann's testimony opened the third week of the federal trial of five police officers, who were charged with civil rights violations or obstructing justice in the shooting that took place on Danziger Bridge, Reuters reported. The shooting killed 41-year-old Ronald Madison and 17-year-old James Brissette.
The four police officers who faced charges in the shooting included Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, Anthony Villavaso and Robert Faulcon. Arthur Archie Kaufman was accused of orchestrating a cover-up of the crimes.
Lehrmann along with four other police officers had pleaded guilty for their involvement in the crimes and have been sentenced to three years for knowing and not reporting a crime. Lehrmann, in conjunction with the prosecutors last year, agreed to wear a wire and record his meetings with Gisevius.
Lehmann informed the jurors that when he arrived at the scene after the gunfire ended, he knew that the officers had responded to a radio call that the police were under attack. However, on seeing five unarmed people lying on the ground bleeding made him suspicious. Later Kaufman told him that Faulcon had shot an innocent man. Lehrmann understood that the officers were bent on covering their tracks to avoid the legal ramifications of their action.
Since none of the victims possessed any weapons, they planted a gun, they got from Archie's house and reported that they had got the weapon from Lance Madison, the slain Ronald's brother. They falsely accused Lance of attempting to murder police and arrested him.
Lehrmann also said that they made up two witnesses Lakeisha Smith and James Youngman. Smith said that she had seen Madison reach into his waistband for something before being shot. Youngman claimed that he had seen young men shoot at the officers and flee.
Neither Smith nor Youngman exist, Lehrmann said.
According to Reuters reports, in cross-examination, defense lawyer Steve London pointed to many discrepancies in the case. Lehrmann was frequently fuzzy in his recollections, and defense lawyers caused him to stumble often. He admitted to being confused, and throughout his testimony spoke with a nonchalance that appeared to aggravate the lawyers.
The lies changed whenever we needed to change them, Lehrmann said at one point, in reference to filing many false reports. It was part of the fun.
The indiscriminate shooting by the police on the Danziger Bridge has drawn a lot of flak on the police force especially from the black community in New Orleans.
Both Madison and Brissette were African Americans. The recent testimony by Lehrmann exposes the corruption and brutality of the police force especially keeping in mind that Madison was mentally handicapped and Brissette was only seventeen.