NEW ORLEANS, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- The city of New Orleans on Monday resolved multiple civil lawsuits -- stemming from wrongful deaths by police before and after Hurricane Katrina over a decade ago -- with a public apology and a $13.3 million settlement, city officials said.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu issued the apology Monday, saying it was important to bring closure to "a very dark moment in the history of New Orleans." He made the remarks during a prayer service at Xavier University's St. Katharine Drexel Chapel.
The mayor had already apologized privately to the families involved in the lawsuits, which were brought after New Orleans police officers killed four people before and after the historic 2005 storm.
"On behalf of the city, I want to officially apologize to you publicly," Landrieu said. "No amount of words and no amount of money is going to bring them back.
"I hope that after today we can move forward as best we can."
The $13.3 million award will be split among the 17 plaintiffs named in the civil lawsuits.
The settlement covers the notorious shooting deaths at the city's Danziger Bridge days after the hurricane, on Sept. 4, 2005. Two police officers who falsely believed other officers had been attacked at the bridge were accused of responding with aggression and opening fire indiscriminately at pedestrians there.
"I am so deeply touched to receive a personal apology from Mayor Mitch Landrieu," Sherell Johnson, whose son, James, was one of two unarmed victims killed on the bridge, said Monday.
Although 11 years have passed since the chaotic and violence-plagued aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, time has not been able to heal the psychological wounds of all the victims' relatives.
"I pray that I will someday be able to find forgiveness," said Lance Madison, whose mentally challenged brother was the second person killed at Danziger Bridge. "I'm struggling."
Landrieu was joined Monday by the families of all four victims -- James Brissette, 17; Ronald Madison, 40; Henry Glover, 31; and Raymond Robair, 48.
Glover was beaten to death by police before Katrina, and Robair was shot dead at a New Orleans strip mall -- and his body was burned in a vehicle by officers. Five officers were charged in Robair's death and one is serving prison time.
Five other officers pleaded guilty to the Danziger Bridge shootings and coverups, and were all sent to prison.
"When these individuals were looking for people to protect and serve ... they got the complete opposite," Landrieu said. "Money can never fill the hole, but I am hopeful that an apology on behalf of the city and forgiveness from the family ... I'm hoping in some sense the strength of these families will help the city find peace in our future."