Judge: Katrina shooting suspect unfit for trial

September 21, 2011 - 3:55 PM

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A white Mississippi man is mentally unfit to stand trial on charges he fired a shotgun at three black men who were trying to leave New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, a federal magistrate ruled Wednesday.

U.S. Magistrate Louis Moore Jr. ordered Roland Bourgeois Jr. to be taken into federal custody and hospitalized for up to four months before he is re-evaluated.

Bourgeois was freed on bond after he was indicted last year on charges stemming from the 2005 shooting, in which at least one of the men was wounded. Prosecutors called it a racially motived attack.

Dr. John Thompson, a psychiatrist who evaluated Bourgeois last month, determined he has psychiatric and medical problems that impair his competency and concluded he shouldn't stand trial until he has a liver transplant.

Other doctors who have been treating Bourgeois have concluded he currently isn't a candidate for a liver transplant.

"The natural history of Mr. Bourgeois' liver disease is unpredictable and it is not possible to predict at this time if and when Mr. Bourgeois will require a liver transplant," Dr. Nigel Girgrah wrote.

Thompson said he believes Bourgeois is suffering from "major depression" and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Thompson said it may be "extremely difficult" for Bourgeois to communicate with his attorney at times.

Bourgeois, who lived in Columbia, Miss., at the time of his indictment, allegedly discussed shooting black people and defending the city's Algiers Point neighborhood from "outsiders" after the storm, according to the indictment. It said he allegedly bragged that he "got" one after the shooting, then retrieved a bloody baseball cap belonging to one of the victims.

The case against Bourgeois is one of several Justice Department probes of violence that gripped New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina smashed levees and plunged the flooded city into chaos in 2005.

Most of the cases involve alleged misconduct by police officers. Last month, a federal jury convicted five current or former officers of civil rights violations in deadly bridge shootings that killed two people and wounded four others less than a week after the storm's landfall.