A white man who fired a shotgun at three African-Americans amid the chaos that followed Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans more than 13 years ago pleaded guilty Wednesday to two federal criminal counts.
Roland Bourgeois, 55, was indicted in 2010 and originally pleaded not guilty. His case dragged on for years, with a series of delays and hearings related to his physical and mental health and his competency to stand trial. During court appearances, he appeared frail and used a cane. He was out on bond at times but was returned to custody last year after an unspecified bond violation.
Prosecutors said Bourgeois, who lived in Mississippi when he was first charged, fired a shotgun at three black men, wounding one seriously. Authorities said Bourgeois and others used racial epithets in discussing shooting black people and defending the Algiers Point neighborhood of New Orleans from “outsiders” after the storm.
The guilty plea Wednesday came after Bourgeois waived a grand jury hearing and prosecutors filed amended charges in a bill of information: interfering with the victim’s rights because of their race and using a firearm in a crime of violence.
U.S. District Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon still must review the guilty plea. New Orleans news outlets say sentencing was tentatively set for Jan. 17.
Final resolution of the case will mark the end of one of a handful of violent post-Katrina incidents that added to the slow and painful recovery from the storm that, when levees failed, flooded 80 percent of New Orleans.