JUSTICE DEPARTMENT ANNOUNCES COMPLETION OF REVIEW OF GRETNA BRIDGE INVESTIGATION
The United States Department of Justice announced that it has completed its review of the State of Louisiana’s Crescent City Connection Investigation and will close the matter without prosecution. On September 1, 2005, just days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, a number of people attempted to cross the Crescent City Connection Bridge in an effort to evacuate New Orleans and enter the City of Gretna in Jefferson Parish. However, the Bridge was barricaded as a result of public safety decisions made by several law enforcement agencies. During the course of managing the crowds that amassed on the bridge, at least one Gretna Police Department officer discharged his weapon into the air, not resulting in any injuries.
Under the applicable federal criminal civil rights laws, prosecutors must establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a law enforcement officer willfully deprived an individual of a constitutional right, meaning that the officer acted with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids. Neither accident, mistake, fear, negligence nor bad judgment is sufficient to establish such a criminal violation. After a careful and thorough review of the circumstances surrounding the bridge closure, the Civil Rights Division and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana have determined that the evidence was insufficient to prove that law enforcement personnel on the Bridge acted with the requisite specific intent to do something the law forbids. Accordingly, the investigation into this incident has been closed without prosecution.
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