Update (March 2, 2019): A Louisiana man, who was sentenced to 10 years behind bars for shooting three Black men in the Algiers post-Hurricane Katrina racial attack, was found unresponsive in his cell this week.
Roland Bourgeois was discovered in his cell at the Plaquemines Parish jail Wednesday — only five days following his sentencing, according to The Advocate. A report from the coroner's office states Bourgeois died from natural causes. There is no sign of foul play in regards to his death.
Lt. Chaun Domingue of the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office told The Advocate Bourgeois dealt with “extensive, serious pre-existing medical conditions” before entering the prison.
In 2005, the 56-year-old shot three Black men about three days after the levees broke in New Orleans. The victims were entering the Algiers neighborhood to seek refuge and journey to a ferry landing turned into an evacuation site by state and federal agencies. One of the men was severely wounded.
HuffPost reports neighbors who knew Bourgeois said he planned to shoot Black people that day.
“Anything coming up this street darker than a brown paper bag is getting shot,” he reportedly said in 2005.
Due to undisclosed health issues, Bourgeois' case was dragged out after he received federal charges of committing a hate crime and illegal use of a weapon in 2010.
Original: A Louisiana man has been sentenced to a decade in prison for shooting at three Black men while they were trying to escape Hurricane Katrina.
Roland J. Bourgeois Jr. received his sentence 13 years after he committed the crime because he was deemed incompetent to stand trial six times, according to The New York Times. He was finally considered competent in 2018.
FBI New Orleans Special Agent in Charge Eric Rommal believes the outcome was worth the wait, according to a press release from the Justice Department.
“Mr. Bourgeois’ cowardly, unprovoked, and racially based violent acts were unjustly carried out upon his victims over a decade ago, leaving the victims, their families, and our community torn by hate," Rommal said. "We hope his sentencing will help the healing process and serve notice that violence especially borne from hate, will never be tolerated and the FBI remains committed to upholding the Constitution and protecting civil rights.”
Bourgeois was a member of a militia of armed white men who patrolled their neighborhood during Hurricane Katrina to prevent Black people from entering. Three Black men crossed a humanmade barricade of fallen trees to reach a government evacuation site on a ferry landing. Bourgeois, armed with a shotgun, opened fire. One of the men was hit in the neck and back while the other two suffered injuries to their arms, backs and legs.
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Bourgeois considered the incident a victory, telling other vigilantes he “got one” and said he would “kill that n****r” if the men he'd shot survived.
When he was indicted in 2010, Bourgeois claimed the men were looters but later admitted the victims were innocent. According to court papers, he told a neighbor, “Anything coming up this street darker than a brown paper bag is getting shot.”
Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband said he hopes other white supremacists will take note of Bourgeois’ sentencing.
“This sentence sends a clear message to those who attempt to divide our community with violence and fear that the Department of Justice will work tirelessly to prosecute perpetrators of hate-motivated violence,” said Dreiband.
Bourgeois was facing five felony counts and life in prison but received a plea deal. He pleaded guilty to two counts as part of that deal: interference with the rights of the men he targeted and use of a firearm during a violent crime. He was sentenced to five years for each count and will be under supervised release for five years when he leaves prison.
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