Justice Department Finds Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections Violates the Constitution By Incarcerating People Beyond Their Release Dates
WASHINGTON – Roland J. Bourgeois Jr., 55, of New Orleans, Louisiana, was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, followed by five years of supervised release on charges that, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, he shot at three young African-American men because of their race as the men attempted to evacuate New Orleans, announced Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Eric Dreiband; U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana Peter G. Strasser; and FBI New Orleans Division Special Agent in Charge Eric J. Rommal.
“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. “This sentence sends a clear message to those who attempt to divide our community with violence and fear that the Department of Justice will work tirelessly to prosecute perpetrators of hate-motivated violence.”
“Upholding the civil rights of our citizens is one of the most important duties of the Department of Justice. This sentencing clearly demonstrates the tenacity of law enforcement to hold individuals responsible for their actions, despite the passage of time,” said U.S. Attorney Strasser. “Hurricane Katrina was a tragic chapter in the history of our city. Hopefully this plea brings some measure of finality to those directly affected by this crime and to this great city that endured so much in the days following this calamity.”
Eric Rommal, FBI New Orleans Special Agent in Charge stated: “Justice is blind, but she is also patient. Mr. Bourgeois’ cowardly, unprovoked, and racially based violent acts were unjustly carried out upon his victims over a decade ago, leaving the victims, their families, and our community torn by hate. We hope his sentencing will help the healing process and serve notice that violence especially borne from hate, will never be tolerated and the FBI remains committed to upholding the Constitution and protecting civil rights.”
According to documents filed in connection with the plea, shortly after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, Bourgeois and other white male residents of the Algiers Point neighborhood agreed that they would use force to keep out African Americans from their neighborhood. They moved fallen trees to barricade the streets near their homes and started armed patrols of the neighborhood.
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.”
The prosecution of this matter was delayed because the defendant was repeatedly found incompetent to stand trial after being charged in July, 2010. The defendant’s competency was evaluated six different times between 2010 and 2018. After he was declared competent in 2018, Bourgeois pleaded guilty in October 2018.
The FBI conducted the investigation. The case was prosecuted by Special Litigation Counsel Jared Fishman and Trial Attorney Mary J. Hahn of the Civil Rights Division, and Assistant United States Attorney David Howard Sinkman of the Eastern District of Louisiana.
For more information about DOJ’s work to combat and prevent hate crimes, visit www.justice.gov/hatecrimes: a one-stop portal with links to DOJ hate crimes resources for law enforcement, media, researchers, victims, advocacy groups, and other organizations and individuals.