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February 5, 2007

Death Penalty Will Not Be Sought for New Orleans Police Officers

If convicted, four New Orleans police officers charged with murder in shootings that took place in the wake of Hurricane Katrina will not face the death penalty, a prosecutor said.

Sgts. Kenneth Bowen and Robert Gisevius Jr., Officer Anthony Villavaso II, and former officer Robert Faulcon Jr. are being charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder for their involvement in a Sept. 5, 2005 shooting which left two dead and four wounded.

During the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina police shot and killed Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old mentally retarded man, and James Brissette, 19, on the Danziger Bridge.

Madison’s brother, Lance Madison, was on the bridge at the time of the shooting and was arrested on charges of attempted murder. He was later cleared of all charges after serving a month in jail.

Three other officers are also facing charges for their involvement in the shooting. Robert Barrios and Mike Hunter Jr. were charged with attempted first-degree murder, and Officer Ignatius Hills was charged with attempted second-degree murder.

Six of the officers were allowed to continue workings and returned to low-profile jobs on Monday. They are not allowed to wear uniforms, carry weapons, or make arrests, and are being monitored by ankle bracelets.

The family of Madison is outrage with the decision to allow the officers to continue working.

"My brother Lance has still not been able to return to work," said Lorna Humphries, sister of Madison. "It's been hard on him. First he watched his brother gunned down then he was arrested. He's been out of work 17 months now, but the police are back. Is that fair?"

Romell Madison, another Madison brother, called on Wednesday for Mayor Ray Nagin to overturn the police superintendent’s decision to allow the officers to return to work.

January 29, 2007

Navy Ends Search for Missing Crewmembers

The Navy called off the search for three missing crewmembers of a Navy helicopter that crashed in the ocean last Friday. The helicopter crashed about 50 miles off of California’s southern coast during a training mission, killing one sailor and leaving three others missing.

The Navy searched for the remaining crew members through the night and into Saturday afternoon before putting an end to the search. "The cold water temperature and the time that elapsed since the crash occurred led Navy officials to conclude that aircrew survivability is extremely unlikely," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Elizabeth Meydenbauer.

The Navy knows the location of the sunken helicopter, which went down at about 4:30 p.m. CST Friday, but they are unsure of whether or not the wreckage will be recovered, Meydenbauer said.

The helicopter was based at the Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado, and was on a mission off the USS Bonhomme Richard at the time of the crash. According to a Navy spokesperson, the pilot radioed a Mayday, but gave no indications of mechanical malfunctions or a fire.

The names of the sailors onboard the copter have not yet been released, pending family notification.

Sword-Wielding Teen Shot to Death by Police

A high school student and his mother are dead and three others injured after a sword attack involving police in Huron, S.D. John Gilchrist, a 16-year-old sophomore at Huron High School, was shot to death by police after attacking an officer with a sword early Friday morning. The officers then searched the home to find the body of the boy’s mother, Betty Gilchrist, 49.

Four Huron police officers arrived at 1461 McDonald Drive at 5:48 a.m. in response to a 911 call. At the home they found Josh’s 14-year old sister, Rebekah Gilchrist, injured with cuts to her arms and hands.

Police then encountered Josh Gilchrist who, according to officers on the scene, was wielding a three-foot long sword. Gilchrist then turned on the police and struck officer Dan Kight multiple times with the sword, prompting two of the officers to open fire on Gilchrist, killing him.

After shooting Gilchrist police found the dead body of the boy’s mother and an injured foreign-exchange student who had been living with the family.

Kight, 34, was treated for his injuries at Huron Clinic and released. The foreign-exchange student was treated at Huron Regional Medical Center and released.

Rebekah Gilchrist was taken to a hospital in Sioux Falls, S.D. “To all those concerned and praying for Bekah, she is stable and improving with non- life-threatening injuries," her father, Jon Gilchrist, said.

The two officers who fired their guns are on administrative leave with pay pending an investigation by South Dakota authorities. No motive for the attacks is known at this time.