More than five years after Henry Glover was shot and his body burned here by police officers in the days after Hurricane Katrina, a jury has weighed in on the circumstances of his death. Three police officers were found guilty on Thursday night on nine federal counts in an emotionally charged case that painted a grim portrait of the city’s troubled police department.
David Warren, a former police officer, was found guilty of manslaughter in the shooting of Glover; officer Gregory McRae was convicted of obstructing justice and other charges for burning Glover’s body and lieutenant Travis McCabe was convicted of perjury and obstructing justice for drawing up a false police report.
Two other police officers were found not guilty on various counts.
This was the first trial of an untold number of New Orleans officers being investigated by the federal authorities. There are at least eight other such investigations into actions by the city police department, including one into shootings on the Danziger Bridge on Sept. 4, 2005, that left two civilians dead and six wounded.
The horrific nature of some of the actions being investigated, as well as the city’s stubborn crime rate, led the Justice Department to begin conducting a full scale review of the department in May.
Few of the criminal cases contain such grisly details as the one involving Glover, which remained uninvestigated for years despite repeated inquiries by his family. In late 2008, an article about the killing was published by the Nation, in a joint investigative project with ProPublica. Federal investigators began looking into the case shortly afterward.
Preparing to leave the city, Glover, 31, and a friend drove in a stolen truck to a strip mall in the Algiers neighborhood, across the Mississippi River from downtown New Orleans. They had come to pick up suitcases that had been looted from the mall but left behind earlier, prosecutors said.
Warren, who was patrolling the strip mall — which was being used as a detective bureau — shot Glover, who was unarmed. Warren claimed at trial that he had fired in self-defense and that he had perceived something in Glover’s hand. His partner testified that he shot him in the back. Glover, his shirt covered in blood, was picked up by a stranger, William Tanner, who drove him, his brother and a friend to an elementary school that was being used as headquarters for a police special operations division.
There, Tanner says, he was beaten by lieutenant Dwayne Scheuermann and McRae, though they were both found not guilty on this count. McRae did not deny taking Tanner’s car, with Glover’s body inside, and driving it to a levee behind a police substation. There, McRae used flares to set the car and the body afire.
The other two defendants, Robert Italiano, a retired lieutenant, and McCabe, were charged with creating a false report to cover up the killing. Italiano was found not guilty.
All of the testimony was haunted by the specter of Hurricane Katrina, and a debate about the nature of law and order within catastrophe.
“When you take into account reasonable versus unreasonable,” Rick Simmons, who represents Warren, said in his closing arguments, “you have to take into consideration the conditions under which he was living.”
However, prosecutors, who described Warren as zealously looking for an opportunity to use his expensive personal assault rifle, said that even under the harrowing conditions after the hurricane, the rule of law was never abandoned.