Sentencing set in race-based shooting amid Katrina chaos

Posted at 1:27 AM, Feb 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-14 01:27:55-05

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A white man who fired a shotgun at three black men in a race-based attack amid the devastation of Hurricane Katrina was set for sentencing Thursday in a federal courtroom in New Orleans.

Prosecutors were seeking a 10-year prison sentence for Roland Bourgeois Jr., who pleaded guilty to two federal criminal counts in October.

The shooting happened roughly three days after Katrina hit the Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, 2005. Power was out, levee failures had flooded most of the city and emergency resources were strained.

Bourgeois, 56, fired a shotgun at three black men who were trying to evacuate the area, wounding one seriously. Prosecutors said that he and others had discussed shooting black people and defending the Algiers Point neighborhood of New Orleans from "outsiders" after the storm. Before and after the shooting, his conversations were punctuated with racial epithets. And, his original indictment said, he told one African-American neighborhood resident: "Anything coming up this street darker than a brown paper bag is getting shot."

Bourgeois was indicted in 2010. His case dragged on for years with a series of delays and hearings related to his physical and mental health.

He was free on bond for part of that time but was jailed in August 2017 for a bond violation. Documents show that, at the time he was arrested for violating conditions of his release, U.S. Marshals recovered 10 rifles and seven handguns from the residence where he was living.

In June of last year, Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon set a November trial date. Trial was avoided in October when Bourgeois pleaded guilty to "interference with rights" and "use of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence," according to a plea agreement. That agreement said his prison sentence would be at least five years and at most 10 years.