Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Victim Impact Statement of Lance Madison

The following statement was read by Lance Madison during the sentencing of the officers involved in the killings on Danziger Bridge
Good Morning. My name is Lance Madison. I am here today on behalf of myself, my mother, my brothers and sisters and especially my brother Ronald.

On September 4, 2005 my brother Ronald was gunned down and killed, without mercy, on the Danziger Bridge. I was arrested and falsely charged with 8 counts of attempted murder of police officers.

What has become known as the massacre on the Danziger bridge has left my family and me with a deep sorrow and a void that can never be filled. It has also left me with permanent physical and emotional scars. As I stand here today, I still struggle with depression, anxiety and pain. The stress of the past six and a half years on my family has been enormous. My mother has suffered a heart attack. My sister had a life-threatening brain aneurysm. My brother is dead. On September 4, 2005, I had worked for Federal Express for almost 25 years. I was in good physical condition. I used to work out regularly and loved physical competition. But I think I ran faster that day than ever before. I still think of that run as the biggest race of my life. And I know that God must have put a shield around me during that run, protecting me from the shots these officers fired. There is no other way to explain how I escaped getting hit as NOPD officers fired multiple bullets on that bridge and at Ronald and me. It felt like we were in a horror movie, but when I saw the blood from Ronald’s shoulder, I knew it was real.

Although Ronald had the mental capacity of a six-year old child, he knew that he was badly wounded. I had to leave Ronald to go for help. If I had known that Officer Faulcon was going to come after him and shoot him again, in the back, I would never have left him alone. To my dying day I will regret that I didn’t stay with Ronald even though I know that I would have also been killed if I had stayed. I can only think that God wanted me to live so that I could testify and tell the truth about what happened. Other than that, I truly do not know why I am alive today or why I was not seriously wounded myself.

Ronald was like my own child. We were more than just brothers. He loved me and I loved him back. I was his role-model and mentor. We were also each others friend.

Ronald was basically a home-body, but he always wanted to go places with me. I would take Ronald to the park and riding around in my R.V. We would go shopping. We rode bikes together. I would take him to the video store. Ronald loved Michael Jackson. He would play Michael Jackson videos and CDs over and over, dancing to the music.

Ronald always wanted to help me do chores like washing the car and cutting the grass. The minute I would walk in the door at my mother’s house, Ronald would have a big smile on his face and announce that he was the man of the house. He would have my mail in his hand, waiting to greet me. He was always trying to help me, offering me things to eat, asking me if I needed anything. In a funny kind of way, as much as I took care of Ronald, he always took care of me too.

Ronald loved life, loved his family, and we loved him. He was a happy person and brought joy and laughter to all of us who were blessed to know him. He had a long and happy life ahead of him until that terrible day.

These officers shot Ronald down like an animal, and I had to make the awful decision to leave my injured brother’s side to try to find help. When I finally found who I thought was the National Guard, can you imagine how it felt to hear voices shout to arrest me? Can you imagine how it felt when I finally realized that the people who were trying to kill us were in fact police officers?

People all over the world have gotten some perspective into how I felt at that moment, because of the photograph that has come to represent this case. That photo of me, handcuffed and on my knees, surrounded by officers, has been republished hundreds of times. That photo still makes me sick, forcing me to remember the worst day of my life. The officers who I was accused of shooting at, knew that I was innocent. They were the ones who had fired at innocent people. That photograph shows a world turned upside-down.

I was afraid for my life the whole time I was in the custody of these officers. I didn’t know if Ronald, who was shot and bleeding, was still alive. These officers should have been doing everything in their power to make sure their victims received help and to figure out what went wrong on the bridge. Instead, they were busy framing me and covering up their crimes.

The 25 days I spent at Hunt’s prison felt like years. I was sick every day, filled with anxiety. I thought I’d spend the rest of my life in prison. I couldn’t breathe, and was certain I’d lose my mind. The only thing that kept me strong was prayer, and the thought that I might be reunited with my family, and especially with Ronald. I still relive those days I spent in prison. I still feel like I’m in prison, because I am still here, with these same officers, still struggling daily to put this nightmare behind me.

Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, Robert Faulcon, Anthony Villavaso and Arthur Kaufman. You are each responsible for this nightmare that has devastated my family. Instead of immediately acknowledging your wrongdoing, you lied for years, continuing to cover up your crimes and trying to paint your victims...including Ronald and criminals. Because of your years of lying, my family, the Bartholomew family and the families of James Brissette and Jose Holmes, as well as your own families, have suffered and continue to suffer.

Mr. Bowen, to this day, I am still stunned by your cowardly acts of shooting innocent, unarmed people. You shot down a whole family and I will always believe that you kicked my brother as he lay dying on the ground. In the years since you devastated my family and so many others, I wonder if you have ever thought about how you would feel if someone committed these same crimes against your own family. I hope you have asked yourself how you could have done these terrible acts, and I hope you will someday find a way to be honest about what you have done.

Mr. Gisevius, You and the rest of these officers are the reason that I can no longer trust law enforcement. I cannot call the police when I fear for my safety, or for the safety of people around me. I hope you will reflect on your actions, and that someday you will take responsibility for the heartbreak and trauma you have caused.

Mr. Faulcon, when I look at you my pain becomes unbearable. It feels like I have been stabbed in my heart. When you shot down my brother, Ronald, you took the life of an angel and basically ripped my heart out. I still have nightmares about my brother being killed and myself running to get help, to no avail. If you had one ounce of compassion or a heart, you would not have fired that fatal shot that killed my brother Ronald. You treated us like animals and showed no mercy and no regrets.

Can you put yourself in my family’s shoes for just one moment? Have you ever tried to imagine the suffering you caused my family? Have you ever tried to imagine how you would feel if your own brother was shot down, and you were unable to save him? I truly do not understand how you were able to sleep at night for all these years while you continued to lie about what happened. I hope someday you will come to understand the devastation you have brought upon me and my family.

Mr. Villavaso, I am especially disappointed that you never came forward to tell the truth. That’s all you had to do. Tell the truth. Instead of protecting and serving my brother and me and the other victims on the bridge, you, along with the other officers, conspired together to protect only yourselves. You lied and you continued to lie for years. You should have told the truth from day one. You could have been honest, and you would have been in a better situation than you are today. You were given every opportunity to do the right thing. Instead, you decided to keep company with some of the worst role models you could have found in the department. I hope that in the years ahead, you will reflect on the bad choices you’ve made, and that you will someday find a way to be honest about your actions.

Mr. Kaufman, I have to be frank and say that when I think of you, what I feel is disgust. While you weren’t there during the shootings, none of these lies and the cover-up could have happened without you. You helped create the lies and did so in a cold and despicable way. You tried to frame me, a man who you knew was innocent, and send me to prison for the rest of my life. You tried to protect these officers, who you knew had shot and killed innocent people.

I will never forget when you took the witness stand in state court and lied and told the judge that I had a gun on the bridge. I can barely explain what my feelings were at that moment. Even today I remain horrified at your actions. I was in shock that a high-ranking supervisor with the NOPD would go into court and lie so openly.

When people talk about the bad reputation of the NOPD, you come immediately to mind. As a supervisor you had power and influence and you used it for evil purposes. How can you live with yourself? And you have still never been to jail for what you did. I have not seen a single sign of remorse or regret from you during all these long years. I sincerely don’t know that there is any hope for you or that you will ever fully realize the horrors that you created.

I am trying every day to find it in my heart to forgive all of you for what you have done. You took two lives, and destroyed many others. I hope that one day I can let go of my bitterness and hurt, and think of you all with genuine forgiveness in my heart. But that forgiveness will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, as long as you all continue to lie . You all have been lying for so long, I wonder if you even know the truth anymore. Until you become honest and tell the truth, how can we forgive you?

This has been a long and painful six and a half years. Without the federal government, the truth of what happened to us would have never been known. I am truly grateful for the love of God, and for my family, who have stood by my side with unconditional love and support. If not for my belief in a higher power and for my family, I would not have survived.

The people of New Orleans and my family are ready for justice. We are asking this Court to impose the maximum sentences on these defendants and to send a strong message that the terrible crimes committed by these police officers will not be tolerated or excused.

Thank you.

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