New Orleans reached $13.3 million in civil settlements in three major police brutality cases from the weeks before and after Hurricane Katrina, the New York Times reports. The settlements ended what the mother of one victim called an “awful, long and rough road,” beginning with acts of grim and pointless violence and continuing through an 11-year legal journey. The three cases include some of the most brutal and high-profile instances of police violence in recent memory. “There were angels among us that we never knew,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said of those days in 2005, when the city was flooded and nearly anarchic. “But evidently, there were demons as well.”
He apologized on behalf of the city and spoke of the strides the New Orleans Police Department had made under extensive federal oversight, in what he called “the most comprehensive consent decree in the history of the United States.” He also said that the 17 plaintiffs had offered forgiveness in return. The plaintiffs include family members of Raymond Robair, a 48-year-old handyman who was beaten to death by a police officer less than a month before Hurricane Katrina. They also include relatives of Henry Glover, who was shot to death in 2005 by a rookie police officer guarding a strip mall. Two days later, several unarmed people were walking across the Danziger Bridge when officers responding to a report of police under fire showed up in a rented truck and began firing, killing two and badly wounding four. The cases brought intense federal scrutiny. After taking office in 2010, Landrieu invited the U.S. Justice Department to conduct a top-down civil investigation of the New Orleans police. The findings led to a federal consent decree, a judicially enforced reform plan that is still in place.