Cop jailed over post-Katrina shooting

2011-12-02 11:43

Miami - A former New Orleans police officer was sentenced to five years in prison on Thursday for helping cover up a deadly shooting in the days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005.

Ten New Orleans police officers have been convicted in a federal probe into a police shooting on September 4 2005 that killed two civilians and seriously injured four others on the city's Danziger Bridge, just after the hurricane.

Robert Barrios was the last of five police officers being sentenced who was linked to the shooting and cooperated with investigators.

Barrios was in a group of police officers who drove to the bridge after five other police officers had opened fire against the civilians.

Admitted to lying

In April 2010, Barrios admitted to federal prosecutors "that he agreed with other officers to obstruct justice during the investigations that followed the shooting", the Justice Department said in a statement.

Barrios also admitted to lying in a formal police statement to help cover for his fellow officers.

US District Judge Eldon Fallon imposed the stiffest sentence possible because Barrios was the last officer to cooperate with federal prosecutors and failed to provide any new information, The Times-Picayune reported.

For his co-operation, Barrios was only charged with conspiracy, which carries a maximum five-year sentence, the newspaper said, quoting lead federal prosecutor Barbara Bernstein.

A jury convicted five of the officers on August 5 over the incident for either being involved in the shooting or in the subsequent cover-up. Four of them were found guilty on 25 counts and could now face life imprisonment.

Botched response

Those five officers are scheduled to be sentenced in district court on February 14.

Hurricane Katrina smashed through the city's poorly maintained levees on August 29 2005, causing Gulf of Mexico waters to flood in. Eighty percent of the city was under water at the height of the storm, and thousands were stranded on rooftops.

Reports of widespread looting and armed gangs roaming the city shifted the government's already botched response to the disaster from humanitarian aid to a military operation.

- SAPA

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