NEW ORLEANS – Two officers were fired Wednesday for a beating in the French Quarter shortly after Hurricane Katrina that was photographed and videotaped by The Associated Press. A third officer was suspended.
A union official vowed to fight the firings of officers Robert Evangelist and Lance Shilling for their role in the beating of 64-year-old Robert Davis. Officer Stuart Smith was suspended for 120 days.
Davis is black; the three officers are white.
Evangelist and Schilling were accused of battery on Davis. Smith was accused of battery of a reporter.
The New Orleans police union disagreed with the decision and plans to appeal it to the Civil Service Commission, said police association president Lt. David Benelli.
"This case became highly publicized through the media," Benelli said. "In light of the worldwide media frenzy these officers were placed under, it was impossible for them to receive a fair investigation."
After seeing the video of the beating, police superintendent Warren Riley called the officers' actions unacceptable — comments Benelli said interfered with their ability to get a fair investigation by the police internal affairs division.
The officers' attorney, Frank DeSalvo, did not return calls made to his answering service, nor did Davis' attorney Joseph Bruno.
DeSalvo has said that the video of the confrontation does not give the whole story.
All three officers had been suspended without pay since the incident. They have pleaded not guilty to the charges and face trial Jan. 11.
Davis, a retired elementary school teacher who returned to the storm-struck city to check on his properties, said he was searching for cigarettes in the French Quarter when police grabbed him.
The Associated Press Television News tape shows an officer hitting Davis at least four times on the head. Davis appeared to resist, twisting and flailing as he was dragged to the ground by four officers.
One of the officers kneed Davis and punched him twice. Davis was face-down on the sidewalk with blood streaming down his arm and into the gutter.
Smith ordered APTN producer Rich Matthews and the cameraman to stop recording. When Matthews held up his credentials, the officer grabbed the producer, leaned him backward over a car, jabbed him in the stomach and unleashed a profanity-laced tirade.
Davis later pleaded not guilty to charges of public intoxication, resisting arrest, battery on a police officer and public intimidation.
The video tape shows two FBI agents, in town to help with post-Katrina patrols, joining the New Orleans police in subduing Davis. Their roll in the incident is being investigated by federal officials.
A federal civil rights investigation also was launched.