Closing arguments were made Tuesday in the landmark federal trial of several current or former New Orleans police officers accused of shooting unarmed civilians on the Danziger Bridge after Hurricane Katrina, leaving the case in a jury’s hands, says ProPublica. The shootings on Sept. 4, 2005, at the Danziger Bridge were the most well-known incidents of post-Katrina police violence. About a dozen officers arrived at the bridge after a distress call about a fellow officer under fire. According to prosecutors, the officers began spraying bullets at unarmed civilians, killing two and wounding four more.
A 2008 state case against officers involved in the shootings was tossed out after a judge concluded that prosecutors mishandled grand jury evidence. Federal prosecutors subsequently opened their own investigation into the incident. In closing statements, both prosecutors and defense attorneys framed the events in the context of Hurricane Katrina, but with a markedly different slant. Defense attorneys asked the jury to consider the “totality of the circumstances,” saying the chaos and stress that officers experienced after the storm helps explain how some of them could have ended up shooting at unarmed people. Assistant U.S. Attorney Theodore Carter said, “They thought because of Katrina no one was watching. They thought they could do what they wanted to do and there wouldn’t be any consequences.”