Louisiana Trial opens for Katrina burned body case Two officers are charged with burning man's body to cover up cop shooting

By Michael Kunzelman

Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- A trial opens this week for five current or former New Orleans police officers charged in the death of a man whose burned body turned up in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath.

Jury selection was scheduled to start Monday for the trial, the first among several Justice Department probes of alleged misconduct by New Orleans police officers.

A former officer, David Warren, is charged with shooting 31-year-old Henry Glover outside a strip mall on Sept. 2, 2005, four days after Katrina's landfall.

Two officers, Lt. Dwayne Scheuermann and Officer Gregory McRae, are charged with burning Glover's body in a car after he was wounded and driven to a school that police were using as a temporary headquarters after the storm.

Two others, former Lt. Robert Italiano and Lt. Travis McCabe, are charged with obstructing the federal probe of Glover's death.

An 11-count indictment handed up by a grand jury in June charges Warren with deprivation of rights under color of law, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison or the death penalty. The Justice Department, however, has declined to seek the death penalty against Warren.

On the day of the shooting, prosecutors said, Warren was stationed on the balcony of a strip mall when Glover and a friend drove up in a truck to pick up a suitcase that two other friends had left there earlier that day. In court papers, prosecutors said Glover's friend was loading the suitcase into the truck when Warren yelled, "Police, get out!"

As Glover and the friend ran away, Warren allegedly aimed an assault rifle at Glover and fired one round, hitting his torso. Glover was unarmed and didn't pose a threat, prosecutors said.

"Warren's immediate reaction was to deny that his bullet struck Glover, even as Glover laid unmoving on the ground one story below him. However, in the months and years after the shooting, Warren admitted to friends and colleagues, 'I know I hit him,'" prosecutors wrote.

After the shooting, a passing motorist stopped and took Glover, his friend and brother to the makeshift police compound at Habans Elementary School, looking for help. Instead, prosecutors said, the three men were ordered out of the car and handcuffed while Glover's body remained in the back seat.

"Despite the fact that the men did not resist or fight back, the men were hit and kicked by McRae and Schueurmann," prosecutors wrote.

Later, McRae and Scheuermann allegedly moved the vehicle containing Glover's body to a levee and burned the car and body.

Italiano and McCabe are charged with submitting a false report to impede the shooting investigation and lying to the FBI.

Warren's lawyers have argued that jurors should be allowed to hear evidence about the chaotic conditions in New Orleans after Katrina.

"The rampant lawlessness, looting, burning and shooting at police officers is not merely a figment of (Warren's) imagination, but demonstrates and confirms an objective basis for his belief that there was a serious threat of physical safety in the environment in which he found himself," his lawyers wrote.

U.S. District Judge Lance Africk is presiding over the trial, which is expected to last three to four weeks.

The Justice Department's civil rights division has opened several investigations of the New Orleans Police Department that have resulted in charges against 20 current or former officers this year.

Five former officers already have pleaded guilty to helping cover up deadly police shootings of unarmed civilians on a bridge less than a week after Katrina. Six other current or former officers also have been indicted on charges stemming from the Danziger Bridge shootings and the alleged cover up. Their trial is scheduled to start in June 2011.

Published: Tue, Nov 9, 2010