Friday, June 11, 2010 by Brendan McCarthy, The Times-Picayune
Five current or former New Orleans police officers were indicted in federal court Friday in the shooting death of a man in the days after Hurricane Katrina and burning of his body.
Federal prosecutors allege that one NOPD officer fatally shot 31-year-old Henry Glover without justification, and that other officers burnt Glover's body and left it in a torched car beside a levee. The 11-count indictment also alleges two other officers lied and helped cover up the incident.
The indictments are an extraordinary blow to a long-troubled police force reeling from revelations in another post-Katrina fatal police shooting, that one at the Danziger Bridge in eastern New Orleans.
Warren, a rookie cop at the time of the incident, is accused of shooting Glover to death. He faces life in prison if convicted. The charge -- deprivation of rights under color of law -- is a capital offense, though the U.S. attorney general would have to make the decision to seek the death penalty, U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said Friday. Warren is also charged with using a weapon during the commission of a crime, a felony that carries a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison. Warren left the force in 2008.
Scheuermann and McRae are each charged with five felony counts. They allegedly beat two men who took Glover to a makeshift police compound in search of assistance. The grand jury also determined that Scheuermann and McRae burnt Glover's body and obstructed a federal investigation by destroying evidence. If convicted, they each face up to 60 years in prison.
The government alleges that Italiano and McCabe covered up the incident by fabricating a report with the intent to mislead any further investigation. The duo is also charged with lying to FBI agents about the case. McCabe is also charged with perjury.
Italiano, if convicted, could be sentenced up to 25 years in prison. McCabe faces a maximum sentence of 30 years if he is convicted.
Attorneys for each of the indicted men could not be reached or did not return calls for comment Friday.
Italiano left the NOPD in April 2006 and has been employed as an investigator with the Louisiana attorney general's office. An office spokeswoman said Friday that he was removed from his position Friday following the indictment.
McCabe, McRae and Scheuermann were suspended without pay Friday from the NOPD, pending an investigation of the matter.
Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas released a statement Friday saying he was unable to comment on the case because it is an ongoing investigation.
Guarding NOPD satellite bureau
The Glover incident played out on Sept. 2, 2005 in several locations in Algiers, an area spared from floodwaters but wracked by wind and water damage.
Glover of Algiers and another man allegedly ran toward the rear of a strip mall near the corner of Texas Drive and Seine Street. Warren and his partner were guarding a NOPD satellite bureau in the complex.
At some point, Warren fired a rifle from a second-floor balcony, according to NOPD documents. The federal government says that bullet hit Glover. Warren's attorney has said his client perceived he was in danger when he shot his rifle, and furthermore that Warren never knew whether the bullet hit anyone.
A stranger, William Tanner was nearby and responded to the cries that a man was wounded. Tanner said he, along with Glover's brother Edward King and Glover's friend Bernard Calloway, put Glover in the back of Tanner's Chevy Malibu. Tanner, not knowing Glover or the circumstances of the shooting, decided the local hospital was too far away. He chose to drive to nearby Paul B. Habans Elementary School, where the NOPD's SWAT unit had set up a makeshift compound.
There, McRae and Scheuermann allegedly beat Tanner and King. Tanner said the group was handcuffed and accused of being looters. Tanner said he last saw his car, with Glover in the backseat, driven away from the compound by an officer with flares sticking out of his pocket. Another officer followed in a separate vehicle.
Scorched car found on Algiers batture
Federal prosecutors allege Scheuermann and McRae seized the vehicle and set it on fire, with Glover inside.
The car ended up scorched on the Algiers batture, behind the NOPD's 4th District station and a U.S. Border Patrol office. Glover's burnt remains were recovered weeks later.
Glover's mother, Edna, filed a missing-person report on Nov. 16, 2005, at the NOPD's 4th District station. She gave details of the shooting of her son, including the time and place it occurred.
Weeks after Edna Glover's complaint, on Dec. 2, 2005, Sgt. Purnella Simmons signed a "miscellaneous incident" report describing the shooting by David Warren. The report attempted to explain why Warren fired his rifle at a suspected looter. It mentions that the incident was reported to Lt. Italiano and his supervisor, then-Capt. David Kirsch, who both deemed the shooting justified. Italiano approved and signed off on the report, which was obtained by The Times-Picayune in March. A source close to the investigation has said the report was altered after Simmons signed it.
The indictment alleges that Italiano and McCabe, in November or December 2005, "authored and submitted a false and misleading official report" to impede an investigation into Glover's death.
McCabe, according to the indictment, lied to the FBI in saying he wrote the report with Simmons and participated in interviews with her.
Italiano also allegedly lied to the FBI. He knew of the both the missing-person report filed by Edna Glover and of the "miscellaneous incident" report on the shooting -- as well of the connection between the incidents and the burnt body on the levee -- but pretended he did not know they were related, the indictment states.
Justice Department takes a look
The federal investigation began following the publication of an article in late 2008 by The Nation and ProPublica that questioned whether police played a role in the burning of Glover's body. Glover's death, and the alleged police cover-up, became the focus of a series of articles in The Times-Picayune.
On Friday, Letten praised The Nation piece and The Times-Picayune for writing "very good press accounts that were illustrative for us and that helped us and certain other federal authorities to know where to look."
Shortly after the initial media attention, the Department of Justice began looking into the case. Dozens of NOPD officers, including rookie cops, captains and supervisors, among them former Superintendents Warren Riley and Eddie Compass, testified before a federal grand jury.
The indictments unsealed Friday, however, do not signal the end of the Glover investigation, Letten said.
"You can bank on this: that the investigation will continue. It will continue aggressively and fairly," he said.
Letten held the news conference Friday afternoon on the steps of the federal courthouse. He was joined by David Welker, special agent in charge of the FBI's New Orleans field office, and several federal prosecutors.
David Warren appears in court
Minutes after the news conference, Warren appeared in court.
He stood before the judge, his head slightly bowed, his jaw clenched tightly. Shackles bound his hands and feet.
His attorney, Joseph Albe, told U.S. Magistrate Louis Moore that Warren wished to waive his rights. He did not enter a plea.
Albe declined to comment following the hearing.
Warren is due in court again on Thursday for a detention hearing.
Letten had noted that Warren will be held without bond, but declined to say what facility would house him.
Several other of Warren's former colleagues appeared in recent weeks in the same courtroom, facing other criminal charges. Five officers have pleaded guilty in federal court in recent months to participating in a cover-up of the events on the Danziger Bridge.
Officers have acknowledged in that case that cops conducted a wide-scale cover-up, planted a gun, coached and coordinated statements in secret meetings, and lied to both investigators and the public. More charges are expected in that case.
In addition, the FBI has at least six other criminal probes under way into the department, most involving alleged misconduct after Katrina.