A white New Orleans man on Wednesday pleaded guilty to shooting at three black men in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, according to a Department of Justice (DOJ) news release.
Roland Bourgeois's guilty plea comes after his trial was indefinitely postponed four years ago due to his diminished physical and mental health. A psychiatrist last summer found his health condition had improved significantly, allowing U.S. District Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon to reopen the case, according to The New Orleans Advocate.
Bourgeois in 2005 worked with other white men to forcefully keep black men fleeing Hurricane Katrina out of their New Orleans neighborhood. They created a barricade at the front of the area, Algiers Point, which was being used as an evacuation point.
He told one of his neighbors that “anything coming up this street darker than a brown paper bag is getting shot.”
When three African-American men tried to get past the barricade, Bourgeois reportedly shot at them, bragging that he “got one” and pledging to “kill that [racial slur]" if the man survived, according to the DOJ filing.
He proudly displayed a bloody baseball cap that fell from the head of one of the men, the Advocate reported.
“This guilty plea demonstrates the Justice Department’s continued commitment over time to holding perpetrators of hate crimes accountable for their actions,” said acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore. “All Americans have the right to be free from violence or physical harm, regardless of their race.”
Bourgeois, who will be sentenced in January, faces a maximum of ten years in prison.
His case is one of multiple post-Katrina civil rights cases that federal authorities have taken on in recent years, the Advocate reported.