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Officer found guilty of lying about post-Katrina shooting

By Kathy Finn

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - A jury on Friday convicted one police officer and acquitted another of lying about their role in a civilian's killing in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The jury found Ronald Mitchell, 34, guilty on one count of obstruction of justice and one count of perjury for telling authorities he got out of his patrol car and checked the condition of 45-year-old Danny Brumfield after shooting Brumfield with a pistol-grip shotgun on September 3, 2005.

Two witnesses had testified to the contrary, saying the patrol unit never stopped after the shots were fired.

Mitchell faces a maximum sentence of 25 years for the two counts.

Mitchell and officer Ray Jones were in a patrol car driving past the city's convention center where throngs of people had gathered to seek food and shelter just after fleeing their flooded homes.

Mitchell claimed that Brumfield, who was on the sidewalk with his family in front of the center, lunged at the officers with "a shiny object" in his hand, prompting Mitchell to shoot him with a pistol-grip shotgun. Brumfield died in the street.

In addition to his guilty verdicts, Mitchell was acquitted on two charges that he lied about Brumfield threatening the officers.

Jones, 34, who drove the patrol car, was found innocent on one count each of perjury and obstruction of justice.

The case arose from a federal wrongful death lawsuit filed by Brumfield's widow against the city of New Orleans.

In connection with that suit, Mitchell and Jones gave sworn testimony about the circumstances of Brumfield's death. Federal prosecutors later brought charges against the officers.

Mitchell's lawyer, Kerry Cuccia, told Reuters that if the judge allows the verdict to stand, Mitchell will appeal.

Sentencing for Mitchell is set for March 7.

(Edited by Karen Brooks and Jerry Norton)

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