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Five New Orleans police officers sentenced in hurricane Katrina killings

• Chris McGreal via

Four New Orleans police officers have been sentenced to decades in prison over the killing of two people and wounding of four others fleeing the massive flooding of the city by hurricane Katrina.

A fifth officer was sent to jail for his role in a web of fabrications to cover up the true circumstances of the shootings on the Danziger bridge in 2005. The shootings came to symbolise the behaviour of a police force regarded as out of control in the chaotic aftermath of the hurricane which claimed nearly 2,000 lives and flooded about 80% of New Orleans.

The policemen were prosecuted in federal court after Louisiana state authorities declined to charge them. The federal investigation revealed a coverup that involved planted evidence, invented witnesses and falsified police reports that prosecutors said exposed a culture of corruption and a code of silence in the New Orleans police department.

Prosecutors described a force in disarray during the hurricane, with some officers dedicated to saving lives while others armed themselves with their own automatic weapons and behaved like vigilantes. Senior officers spread false assertions that martial law was declared and encouraged the shooting of looters.

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