A white man who fired a shotgun at three African Americans amid the chaos that followed Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans more than 13 years ago pleaded guilty on Wednesday to two federal criminal counts.
Roland Bourgeois, 55, was indicted in 2010 and originally pleaded not guilty. His case dragged on for years, with a series of delays and hearings related to his physical and mental health and his competency to stand trial. He was out on bond at times but was returned to custody last year after an unspecified bond violation.
Prosecutors said Bourgeois, who lived in Mississippi when he was first charged, fired a shotgun at three black men, wounding one seriously. Authorities said Bourgeois and others used racial epithets in discussing shooting black people and defending the Algiers Point neighborhood of New Orleans from “outsiders” after the storm.
According to local media, the guilty plea came just a little over a month before Bourgeois’s trial was expected to begin.
Bourgeois had waived a grand jury hearing and prosecutors filed amended charges in a bill of information: Interfering with the victim’s rights because of their race and using a firearm in a crime of violence.
US District Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon still must review the guilty plea. New Orleans news outlets say sentencing was tentatively set for January 17.
Final resolution of the case will mark the end of one of a handful of violent post-Katrina incidents that added to the slow and painful recovery from the storm that, when levees failed, flooded 80 percent of New Orleans.
Two others involved police, including the deadly shooting of unarmed civilians at the Danziger Bridge in the days after the storm – a case that led to eventual guilty pleas from several officers during a long and complicated court case.
In an unrelated post-Katrina case, five other officers were tried on charges related to the death of 31-year-old Henry Glover, who was fatally shot outside a strip mall before his body was burned. The officer who burned the body was the only one who stood convicted when the case was over. The officer who fatally shot Glover was convicted of manslaughter but was later acquitted by another jury after an appeals court awarded him a new trial.