5th former New Orleans police officer charged with helping cover up post-Katrina shootings

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Another former police officer has been charged with helping cover up the deadly shootings of unarmed residents on a New Orleans bridge in the days after Hurricane Katrina, prosecutors said Friday.

U.S. Attorney Jim Lepton announced on Friday that 33-year-old Ignatius Hills was charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice and misprision of felony.

Police officers shot and killed two people and wounded four others on the Danziger Bridge less than a week after the August 2005 storm. Hills is the fifth former New Orleans police officers charged with helping cover up the shootings. The other officers and one civilian pleaded guilty after working out plea bargains.

The charge against Hills was contained in a bill of information, which typically signals a plea deal. A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Jim Letten refused comment.

Hills resigned from the police department Thursday.

Officials said that on Sept. 4, 2005, Hills went with seven other officers to the bridge after reports of shots being fired in the area.

Lance Madison, a 40-year-old mentally disabled man, and James Brissette, 17, were shot and killed by police on the bridge. Madison's older brother, Ronald, was arrested on eight counts of attempted murder of a police officer. Those charges were later dropped.

Federal officials say that Hills and others not only shot at unarmed people, but tried to cover it up so the shootings would appear legally justified.

According to the charges against Hills, he wrote a police report accusing Lance Madison of eight counts of attempted murder, although "he had no first hand knowledge of any wrongdoing by Madison."

Another officer dictated the report that Hills wrote, federal officials said in the charges. The court filing said Hills signed the report "even though he believed that Madison was being framed."

Hills also is accused of joining other officers when they developed false stories about the incident, including what prosecutors have termed a "secret meeting" in January 2006. Hills, who testified before a state grand jury in October 2006, lied during that session, prosecutors said.

Hills' attorney, Robert Jenkins did not return several phone calls. The charges against Hills carry a maximum eight-year prison sentence.