updated 1/5/2007 5:36:52 PM ET 2007-01-05T22:36:52

All seven policemen charged in the deadly bridge shootings after Hurricane Katrina will be allowed to post bail, and the six still on the New Orleans Police force can return to limited duty, a judge said Friday.

The seven men pleaded not guilty in court Friday to murder or attempted murder charges.

Four of the officers face counts of first-degree murder that carry a possible death sentence. A grand jury indicted the seven last week in connection with the Sept. 4, 2005, shootings on the city's Danziger Bridge that killed two men and wounded four other people.

Bail on a first-degree murder charge is rare in Louisiana, and activists who had gathered outside the courthouse before the hearing protested allowing it.

As one of the officers left the courthouse, surrounded by attorneys and police officers, a small group of activists shouted “murderer.”

Five of the indicted men will be required to wear monitoring devices if they post bail and will be confined to home, work, attorney visits and court appearances, defense attorneys said.

One former officer, now a truck driver in Texas, also can return to work, Judge Raymond Bigelow said during the officers' first court appearance since their indictments last week.

Assistant Police Superintendent Steven Nicholas said no decision had been made about whether they would be returned to the duty. They were put on a 120-day unpaid suspension after the indictments, he said.

Tracie Washington, spokeswoman for the local chapter of the NAACP, expressed disappointment that officers accused of murder would be allowed out and to return to work. She and other NAACP representatives hoped to meet with Police Superintendent Warren Riley to ask that the officers not be allowed to return to duty.

“There should be accountability on both sides. We want a fair trial, but we want the community to feel safe,” she said.

Exactly what happened that day on the Danziger Bridge remains unclear. The hurricane had hit the city a few days earlier, flooding 80 percent of it, and there were widespread reports of lawlessness, looting and violence.

Police say that the indicted officers were responding to a report of other officers being attacked at the bridge and that one of the victims, Ronald Madison, 40, was reaching for a gun.

Madison's brother, Lance, has said that his mentally retarded brother wasn't armed and that the two were running from a group of teens who had opened fire when seven men jumped out of a rental truck and also shot at them without warning.

Sgts. Kenneth Bowen and Robert Gisevius Jr., officer Anthony Villavaso II and former officer Robert Faulcon Jr., were indicted on first-degree murder charges and attempted murder charges. Officers Robert Barrios and Mike Hunter Jr. were charged with attempted first-degree murder, and Officer Ignatius Hills was charged with attempted second-degree murder.

Hunter and Hills made bail earlier this week. A defense lawyer said they will not be required to wear monitoring devices.

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