JOSEPH DANIEL FIEDLER ILLUSTRATION
“Forgiveness will be extremely difficult … as long as you all continue to lie.”
– Danziger Bridge survivor Lance Madison to convicted former New Orleans policemen Kenneth R. Bowen, Robert Gisevius, Robert Faulcon, Anthony Villavaso and Arthur “Archie” Kaufman, U.S. District Court, April 4, 2012.
n the morning of April 4, Lance Madison stands before U.S. District Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt at the sentencing hearing pursuant to the trial over the Danziger Bridge police shootings and cover-up. The son of a prominent black family in Gentilly, Madison appears distinctive yet somber in a dark suit and light blue tie.
A 25-year FedEx employee at Louis Armstrong International Airport, Madison also worked as a former quality control manger for Hertz rental car after injuries ended his aspirations as an NFL receiver/return specialist (Oakland Raiders/Kansas City Chiefs) in the early 1980s.
Today, the judge has given him 10 minutes to tell a packed court how the Danziger Bridge shootings – including the death of his disabled brother – continue to affect him and his family.
The five former New Orleans police officers awaiting sentencing in the case sit directly behind him. They, too, are well-dressed.
Last summer, a jury of 11 whites and one black found each of the officers guilty of federal civil rights violations and cover-up charges related to the unjustified police shootings of six unarmed black citizens on Danziger Bridge in 2005. Two died: 17-year-old James Brissette, who aspired to join the U.S. Marine Corps, and Ronald Madison, 40, the severely disabled brother of Lance Madison. The jury also found that Lance Madison was falsely arrested on trumped-up charges of the attempted murder of eight police officers on the bridge.
“Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, Robert Faulcon, Anthony Villavaso and Arthur Kaufman!” Madison said, calling out the names of the five convicted New Orleans police officer-defendants seated behind him, just paces away. “You are each responsible for this nightmare that has devastated my family.”
Madison addressed each of the five disgraced officers individually, with eloquence and restraint. “Mr. Kaufman, I have to be frank and say that when I think of you: What I feel is disgust,” Madison said to retired homicide detective Kaufman (Badge No. 267), who federal prosecutors described as the “boots-on-the-ground” leader of the cover-up.
“While you weren’t out there during the shootings, none of these lies and the cover-up could have happened without you,” Madison said, adding: “When people talk about the bad reputation of the NOPD, you come immediately to mind.”
Six-and-a-half years ago, on Sept. 28, 2005, Lance Madison appeared as a defendant in the Danziger case before a state judge at Hunt prison. Wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, Madison was handcuffed, shackled and facing life in prison for allegedly trying to kill cops on Danziger Bridge.
The key witness against Madison at the preliminary hearing and bond reduction hearing that day in 2005 was Detective Kaufman, the lead NOPD “investigator” in the Danziger case.
“A gunfight ensued,” Kaufman told state Judge Gerard Hansen of New Orleans, according to a transcript of the 2005 proceeding. “The officers identified themselves; they were fired upon by four of the seven subjects. Handguns were used by the perpetrators.”
A federal jury found Kaufman’s testimony was untrue.
Kaufman was convicted of lying under oath in 2005 about subsequent statements involving a revolver another officer “retrieved” from the area of the bridge. Kaufman was also convicted of “planting” the gun into evidence to build up NOPD’s false case against Lance Madison.
The “gist” of Kaufman’s initial and discredited NOPD investigative report in 2005 on Danziger listed eight “officers” as “victims” – all are now heading to prison.
One of the alleged “officers” was Marion David Ryder, a convicted felon and horse thief who was posing as a St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s deputy when he was mixed up with the NOPD at Danziger. He falsely accused Lance Madison of shooting at rescuers and later lied to the FBI.
The Danziger Bridge shootings began shortly after 9 a.m., Sept. 4, 2005,one week after Hurricane Katrina devastated most of the city.
Cops riding in a Budget Rental truck responded to a police radio distress call. The truck arrived at the bridge in eastern New Orleans.
Armed with three assault rifles, a shotgun and department-issue handguns, officers immediately began firing at unarmed Katrina survivors walking on the bridge toward a supermarket.
Prosecutors said when police stopped shooting, Brissette and Ronald Madison lay dead. Four others were seriously injured: Susan Bartholomew’s right arm was shot off; her husband Leonard Bartholomew survived a gunshot wound to the back of the head; Lesha Bartholomew, then 17, suffered gunshot wounds to the stomach and both legs; and nephew Jose Holmes, then 19, survived multiple gunshot wounds and wore a colostomy bag for years after the incident. The Bartholomews’ 14-year-old son ran from the bridge and escaped police gunfire.
Overseen by an admittedly guilty police lieutenant, Kaufman quickly went to work as the busy “boots-on-the-ground” organizer of a conspiracy to protect the Danziger cops from prosecution, federal prosecutor “Bobbi” Bernstein said.
Kaufman then arrested Lance Madison on false charges of attempting to kill eight police officers.
Accompanied by NOPD Detective Jeffrey Lehrmann, the first cop to “flip” for the feds, Kaufman also took a .357 Magnum pistol from his home (the notorious “ham sandwich”) which he then “planted” into evidence to bolster the bogus police case against Lance Madison, the jury concluded.
To justify the police fiction that the disabled Ronald Madison and Bartholomew family members were shot by officers in self-defense, Kaufman fabricated two witnesses “Lakeisha Smith” and “James Youngman” who, along with other guilty cops, falsified investigative reports and told numerous lies, depicting the victims as criminals, to grand juries and later to FBI agents, the feds alleged in a sweeping federal indictment.
Kaufman pleaded not guilty and blamed other investigators for crime attributed to him.
Kaufman was scheduled to report to prison on May 23 as Federal Inmate No. 31576-034 to begin serving a six-year sentence.
The Danziger Bridge police shootings were over in minutes; the cover-up has lasted years. “Because of your years of lying,” Madison told the five ex-cops, the victims’ families, “as well as your own families have suffered and continue to suffer.”
Loyola law school professor Dane Ciolino said the police cover-up just made matters worse: “The police shootings were obviously ‘bad shoots.’ If these guys would have never tried to cover it up they would – more likely than not – have faced negligent homicide charges in state court. The police didn’t wake up one morning and decide they would go kill people,” Professor Ciolino added. Instead, nearly seven years later, Danziger still haunts us.