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New Orleans Man Gets 10 Years In Prison For Race-Motivated Post-Katrina Shooting

A New Orleans man who shot three young African-American men while shouting racial slurs in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was sentenced Thursday to 10 years in federal prison.

Roland Bourgeois Jr., 55, who is white, was also sentenced to five years of supervised release on charges that he had racially targeted the men who were attempting to evacuate from the hurricane zone in 2005.

"Today's sentencing brings closure to this race-motivated shooting that occurred over 13 years ago, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina," said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband in a statement.

According to the statement, Bourgeois and other men of the Algiers Point neighborhood banded together to keep African-Americans out of their vicinity. They used fallen trees to barricade the streets near their homes and launched armed patrols.

The statement adds,

"On Sept. 1, 2005, three young African-American men – D.H., M.A., and C.C. – walked to Algiers Point in an effort to reach the ferry landing, a site that state and federal agencies were using as an evacuation point. When the three men crossed a barricade constructed by Bourgeois and others, Bourgeois opened fire with a shotgun, wounding all three men. After the men fled, Bourgeois boasted that he had 'got one' and pledged to 'kill that [racial slur]' if the man had survived.  Bourgeois warned one of his neighbors: 'Anything coming up this street darker than a brown paper bag is getting shot.'"

Bourgeois was first charged in 2010 in a five-count indictment for firearms and civil rights violations, but was repeatedly found incompetent to stand trial due to his physical and mental health.

Last year he was declared competent to stand trial and, in October, he pleaded guilty to two federal charges: interference with rights and use of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence.

Boureois' defense attorney, Valerie Welz Jusselin, argued for a lighter sentence. Citing her client's frail health, she said in the chaotic period after Katrina, fear and confusion in New Orleans was common and that even police believed they were enforcing martial law.

But federal prosecutor Mary Hahn characterized Bourgeois' actions as "a premeditated attempt to kill."

The case is the last high-profile legal actions connected the violence and chaos following Katrina. In 2016, four former New Orleans police officers received prison terms of 7 to 12 years for the shootings of six unarmed civilians on the Danziger Bridge.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Richard Gonzales is NPR's National Desk Correspondent based in San Francisco. Along with covering the daily news of region, Gonzales' reporting has included medical marijuana, gay marriage, drive-by shootings, Jerry Brown, Willie Brown, the U.S. Ninth Circuit, the California State Supreme Court and any other legal, political, or social development occurring in Northern California relevant to the rest of the country.