By Frederick H. Lowe
A white man who shot and wounded three black men, trying to reach safety after Hurricane Katrina 13 years ago pled guilty on Wednesday to a hate crime in New Orleans U.S. District Court.
Roland Bourgeois, Jr., 55, was indicted in 2010 but he pled not guilty in legal proceedings that dragged on for years because of his physical and psychological challenges.
Bourgeois fired and seriously wounded the three men. He vowed to prevent blacks from entering the all-white Algiers Point neighborhood in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, a Category 5 storm that hit on August 29, 2005, and brutally damaged parts of the city.
Bourgeois bragged that he would shoot anyone darker than a brown paper bag that walked through his neighborhood. When the three black men walked past Bourgeois’ house, he shot them.
Donnell Herrington, 32, was shot in the neck by Bourgeois, on September 1, 2005. A happy Bourgeois shouted, “I got one.” He called blacks “niggers.”
The other two were Marcel Alexander, 17, and and Cris Collins, 18. Both were shot in the back, arms and buttocks. All three ran away to escape further harm to the shouts of “Get those niggers!”
They had been walking to a ferry landing that state and federal agencies set up as an evacuation site.
Bourgeois and other white men who lived in the neighborhood vowed they would they would use force to keep African Americans out of the Algiers Point neighborhood. They blocked the street with fallen trees and other debris.
“The 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.
U.S. District Court Senior Judge Mary Ann Lemmon will sentence Bourgeois on January 17, 2019. He faces a minimum of five years and a maximum of 10 years behind bars. He later died in custody.