NEW ORLEANS – A former New Orleans police officer was convicted Thursday of fatally shooting a man in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath and another officer was convicted of burning the man's body in a case that exposed one of the ugliest chapters in the police department's troubled history.
A federal jury also convicted a third officer of writing a false report on the deadly shooting of 31-year-old Henry Glover, but two others were acquitted of charges stemming from the alleged cover-up.
The jury of five men and seven women convicted former officer David Warren of manslaughter in the shooting death of 31-year-old Henry Glover outside a strip mall on Sept. 2, 2005. Prosecutors said Warren shot an unarmed man in the back.
Officer Gregory McRae was convicted of burning Glover's body in a car. Lt. Dwayne Scheuermann was acquitted of that charge. Both were cleared of charges they beat the men who had brought the dying Glover to a makeshift police compound in search of help.
Lt. Travis McCabe was convicted of writing a false report on the shooting and lying to the FBI and a grand jury. Lt. Robert Italiano was cleared of charges he submitted the false report and lied to the FBI.
"This was a case that needed to be aired," U.S. District Judge Lance Africk said after the verdicts were read aloud.
Some of the officers hugged each other before they left the courtroom, while their relatives tried to console each other. Glover's relatives sobbed as they embraced each other.
Rebecca Glover, Henry's aunt, said the verdict doesn't close the case for her.
"This has been a long, anguishing time," she said. "All of them should have been found guilty. They were all in on it."
Warren, who has been in custody since his indictment earlier this year, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. Prosecutors asked Africk to jail McRae and McCabe while they await sentencing. The judge set a hearing Friday on that request.
Warren's attorney, Julian Murray, said he planned to appeal.
"I don't think people understand the split-second decisions police officers sometime have to make," he said.
A total of 20 current or former New Orleans police officers have been charged this 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.
This isn't the first time federal authorities have tried to clean up the city's police department. The Justice Department launched a broad review of the force in the 1990s, when it was reeling from a string of lurid corruption cases. An officer, Antoinette Frank, was convicted of killing her patrol partner in a 1995 robbery. Another officer, Len Davis, was convicted of arranging the 1994 murder of Kim Groves, a woman who had filed a brutality complaint against him.
All five of the officers charged in the Glover case testified during the trial, describing the grueling, dangerous conditions they endured after the Aug. 29, 2005 storm, when thousands of desperate people were trapped in the flooded city.
Looting was rampant and bodies rotted on the streets for days because there was nowhere to take them, officers recalled. With lives on the line, the officers said they had no time to write reports or investigate anything but the most serious of crimes.
U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said the jury rejected the notion that stress from Katrina was a defense for the officers' actions.
"Tonight's verdict is a critical phase in the recovery and healing of this city, of the people of this region," Letten said.
The jury had to weigh the defendants' testimony against the words of several officers who admitted they initially lied to the FBI or a grand jury — or both — before cooperating with the government.
Warren, 47, said he was guarding a police substation at the mall and armed with his own assault rifle when Glover and a friend, Bernard Calloway, pulled up in what appeared to be a stolen truck. Warren claimed Glover and Calloway ran toward a gate that would have given them access to the building and ignored his commands to stop. He said he thought he saw a gun in Glover's hand before he fired one shot at him from a second-floor balcony.
But Warren's partner that day, Officer Linda Howard, testified Glover and Calloway weren't armed and didn't pose a threat. Calloway said he saw Glover leaning against the truck and lighting a cigarette, with his back facing the strip mall, just before he was shot.
It wasn't the only time Warren discharged his weapon that day. Earlier in the morning, Warren had fired a warning shot at a man on a bicycle. Warren said he felt threatened by the man because he kept circling and looking up at him.
After Warren shot Glover, a passing motorist, William Tanner, stopped and drove the wounded man, Calloway and Glover's brother, Edward King, to a school that members of the police department's SWAT team using in the storm's aftermath.
Tanner and Calloway testified they were ordered out of the car at gunpoint, handcuffed and beaten by officers who ignored their pleas to help Glover.
McRae, 49, admitted he drove Tanner's Chevrolet Malibu from the school to a nearby Mississippi River levee and set it on fire with Glover's body still in the back seat.
McRae said it was his idea to burn the car and did it because he was weary of seeing rotting corpses after the storm. Another officer testified he saw McRae laughing after he set the fire.
"We admitted he burned the car, because that's what he did," his attorney, Frank DeSalvo, said after the verdict. "What he denied was that he intended to violate anybody's civil rights.
Scheuermann, 48, said he was stunned when he saw McRae toss a flare into the front seat of the car and then shoot out the rear window to stoke the fire.
"Thank goodness that we had 12 jurors with the courage to vote their conscience in a climate like this," said Scheuermann's lawyer, Jeffrey Kearney.
Steven Lemoine, Italiano's attorney, said his client was a "terrific" police officer who served the city with distinction for nearly four decades.
"I think the jury saw him for who he is," he said.
McCabe's lawyers declined to comment.
Associated Press writer Mary Foster contributed to this report.