Roland Bourgeois

White vigilante who shot 3 black men evacuating post-Hurricane Katrina dies days after sentencing

The resident said he would kill anything “darker than a brown paper bag”

A white man in Louisiana has died days after he was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for shooting three black men shortly after Hurricane Katrina.

The New Orleans Advocate reported that Roland Bourgeois, 56, was found unresponsive while in federal custody the Plaquemines Parish jail. He was rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead on February 19.

A chief investigator with the Plaquemines Parish Coroner’s Office told the outlet that there’s no sign of foul play or indication that Bourgeois died from anything other than natural causes. Moreover, Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Chaun Domingue said he entered the jail with “extensive, serious pre-existing medical conditions,” but declined to provide further detail.

The New York Times reported that Bourgeois was awaiting a transfer to a federal prison at the time of his death. Federal prosecutors listed Bourgeois’ mental and physical health as reasons why his trial came nine years after his indictment. The newspaper reported that the court repeatedly found Bourgeois incompetent to stand trial until 2018, when he was found mentally fit to be tried for the September 2005 shootings.

Bourgeois ultimately admitted that he and other Algiers Point residents assembled a vigilante group in the days following Hurricane Katrina. Armed with a shotgun, he used downed trees to barricade roads near his home and opened fire on three black men walking to a ferry landing which police designated as an evacuation point, according to The Advocate.

Two of the victims were struck in their legs, backs, and arms while the third victim, Donnell Herrington, was wounded in his neck and back. According to Nola.com, Herrington claimed officers were present at the hospital when he was treated for his near-fatal injuries but he was never interviewed. He said he returned to New Orleans and informed police of the shooting—but the outlet stated that a report was never made.

Bourgeois not only gave his teen son a gun but boasted that he “got one” and vowed to “kill that n****r” if he survived. He also assured a neighbor that he would open fire at anything “darker than a brown paper bag” and proudly toted Herrington’s bloodied hats after the shooting, according to The Advocate.

Bourgeois was initially facing life in prison but he agreed to plead guilty to violating the victims’ civil rights and using a firearm during a violent crime. He received five years in federal prison for each of the counts.

 

[Featured image: Roland Bourgeois/Handout]