A group of citizens wants the U.S. Department of Justice to widen an ongoing civil rights investigation of the New Orleans Police Department beyond the eight current cases, including the Danziger Bridge cover-up, says veteran activist Malcolm Suber. The group, called Citizens United for Change, wants the FBI to review police homicide cases dating to the April 1975 death of Vietnam War veteran Charles Cheatham, among others. "We are asking them to kick the door wide open," Suber says of the federal probes.
Several University of New Orleans students are helping the group research older cases. The group will hold a public meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday (April 22) at St. James A.M.E. Church (200 N. Roman St.). "The FBI has not received such a request from this group," FBI spokesman Sheila Thorne says. "The FBI can open a civil rights investigation based on many different means. The family of an alleged victim could allege a civil rights violation or we might even read about in the newspaper. Each case will stand on its own merit. After a preliminary review, we would present [the complaint] to the Department of Justice Civil Rights division and the United States Attorney's office for a prosecutorial opinion."
There is no statute of limitations on crimes involving allegations of murder. NOPD Assistant Chief Marlon Defillo last week asked the FBI to review the fatal shooting of Brian Harris by NOPD Officer Stephen McGee during an altercation April 9 at 7731 Allison Road.