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NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A former New Orleans police officer told federal authorities he saw a fellow officer shoot and kick unarmed, wounded civilians in a deadly incident on a bridge in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath, marking the first time an officer has provided federal authorities with an eyewitness account of the events.
The former officer, Michael Hunter, pleaded guilty Wednesday to helping cover up the shootings on the Danziger Bridge less than a week after the August 2005 storm.
A court filing Wednesday that describes Hunter's account of the shootings contradicts a police report that said civilians shot at officers before the police opened fire, killing two people and wounding four others.
Seeing no danger to officers, Hunter says he shouted "Cease fire!" after an unidentified sergeant with an assault rifle and other officers opened fire on a group of unarmed civilians who took cover behind a concrete barrier on the bridge.
After they stopped firing, Hunter says he saw several civilians who appeared to be unarmed, injured and subdued.
"(The sergeant) suddenly leaned over the concrete barrier, held out his assault rifle, and, in a sweeping motion, fired repeatedly at the civilians lying wounded on the ground," the filing says. "The civilians were not trying to escape and were not doing anything that could be perceived as a threat."
Moments later, Hunter saw two men later identified as Lance Madison and his 40-year-old mentally disabled brother, Ronald, running away near the bottom of the bridge.
Hunter's statement said an unidentified officer shot Ronald Madison in the back with a shotgun.
"As Ronald Madison lay dying on the pavement, (the sergeant) ran down the bridge toward Ronald and asked an officer if Ronald was 'one of them.' When the officer replied in the affirmative, (the sergeant) began kicking or stomping Ronald Madison repeatedly with his foot," the filing states.
Madison and James Brissette, 19, were killed by police.