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Charges dismissed against police in post-Katrina shootings

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  • Judge: State improperly used forced testimony to indict officers
  • Two killed, four others injured in New Orleans shooting days after Hurricane Katrina
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NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (CNN) -- A judge dismissed all charges Wednesday against six police officers and a former officer who'd been accused of shooting unarmed civilians, two of them fatally, at a New Orleans bridge days after Hurricane Katrina.

In dismissing the charges, Criminal District Judge Raymond Bigelow said three of the defendants were forced to testify before the grand jury that went on to indict them and the other four.

State law says that "no testimony or other information compelled under the order, or any information directly or indirectly derived from such testimony or other information, may be used against the witness in any criminal case," the judge noted.

The judge said he reached "the inescapable conclusion that the state improperly used the testimony of these officers to indict them as well as the others."

He also cited testimony in which a police lieutenant said he had been shown one of the defendant's grand jury testimony.

The state plans to appeal, the clerk of the court said.

The shootings of September 4, 2005, the Sunday after Hurricane Katrina struck, killed two men and wounded four other people who were were trying to evacuate by crossing the Danziger Bridge over the Industrial Canal.

The officers had gone to the bridge because of reports that rescue workers heard gunfire and an officer had been wounded.

Police said officers shot only after being shot at, though some evidence contradicted that assertion.

Killed were Ronald Madison, 40, and James Brissette, 19.

Bigelow threw out indictments against Sgts. Kenneth Bowen and Robert Gisevius Jr., Officer Anthony Villavaso II and former Officer Robert Faulcon Jr., who were facing first-degree murder and attempted murder charges.

Bigelow also threw out attempted first-degree murder charges against Officers Mike Hunter Jr. and Robert Barrios and attempted second-degree murder charges against Officer Ignatius Hills.

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