29 Jun 2011

Five officers charged over post-Katrina shootings

5:56 am on 29 June 2011

Five American police officers charged over a fatal shooting in the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 have gone on trial in New Orleans.

Two unarmed residents were killed and four others wounded in the incident on Danziger Bridge.

Prosecutors claim the officers decided to "shoot first and ask questions later" and then tried to cover up the crimes.

But defence lawyers say their clients feared for their lives and were justified in using deadly force.

Most of New Orleans was flooded by the hurricane and there was widespread looting and violence in the storm's aftermath.

Prosecutor Bobbi Bernstein says police plotted to plant a gun, fabricate witnesses and falsify reports to cover up what they had done.

He says they tried to use the chaotic conditions created by the hurricane as an excuse for gaps in their investigation.

"They lied because they knew they had committed a crime."