NEW ORLEANS – A former New Orleans police officer was sentenced to 25 years in prison Thursday for shooting a man to death without justification after Hurricane Katrina, and his ex-colleague was given 17 years for burning the body.
Former officer David Warren was convicted of manslaughter in the shooting death of Henry Glover, 31, outside a strip mall less than a week after the August 2005 storm. Ex-officer Gregory McRae was found guilty of burning Glover's body in a car near a police station.
Warren faced a maximum sentence of life in prison while McRae could have received 50 years.
Lawyers for the men argued they deserved some leniency, partly because of the horrific conditions they faced in the chaos that followed the hurricane.
The judge said he didn't believe Warren's testimony that Glover posed a threat. "He was not at the strip mall to commit suicide, he was there to retrieve some baby clothing," U.S. District Judge Lance Africk said. "You killed a man. Despite your contentious arguments to the contrary, it was no mistake."
Glover's family sat in the courtroom as he was sentenced.
"I forgive these men because if I don't forgive them Jesus won't forgive me," said his mother, Edna Glover.
Jurors also convicted former Lt. Travis McCabe of writing a false report on the shooting. His sentencing has been postponed while his lawyers seek a new trial based on what they say is newly discovered evidence.
The jury cleared Lt. Dwayne Scheuermann of charges he burned Glover's body and beat one of the men who brought the dying Glover to a makeshift police compound in search of help after the Sept. 2, 2005, shooting. Robert Italiano, a retired police lieutenant, was acquitted of charges he submitted a false report on the shooting and lied to the FBI.
Prosecutors said Glover was unarmed when Warren, 47, shot him in the back. But the former officer said he opened fire because he feared for his life. Warren said he was guarding a police substation at a shopping mall when Glover and a friend, Bernard Calloway, pulled up in a stolen truck and started running toward a gate that would have given them access to the building. He testified that the men ignored his commands to stop and that he thought he saw a gun in Glover's hand before he fired one shot at him from a second-floor balcony.
His partner that day, Officer Linda Howard, testified Glover and Calloway weren't armed and didn't pose a threat.
McRae, 49, admitted he drove Glover's body from the police compound to a nearby Mississippi River levee and set it on fire. The car belonged to one of the men who had driven Glover to the compound. McRae said he burned the vehicle because he was weary of seeing rotting corpses after the storm. Another officer, however, testified he saw McRae laughing after he set the fire.
McRae's attorney argued his client deserved some leniency for accepting responsibility and admitting during the trial that he set Glover's body on fire.
"Your conduct was barbaric," Africk told McRae. "The devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina was made uglier by your disturbing actions. At a time when more was expected of you, you failed miserably."
Warren has been in custody since his indictment last year. McRae has been free on bond but was immediately taken into custody after sentencing.
A total of 20 current or former New Orleans police officers were charged last year in a series of Justice Department civil rights investigations. The probe of Glover's death was the first of those cases to be tried.
Next week, two officers are scheduled to be tried on charges stemming from the July 2005 beating death of a 48-year-old man. And a trial is scheduled to start in June for five current or former officers charged in deadly bridge shootings and an alleged plot to make the shootings appear justified.
Police shot and killed two people and wounded four others on the Danziger Bridge less than a week after Katrina. Five other former officers already have pleaded guilty to participating in a cover-up of the shootings.