NEW ORLEANS – Rebecca Glover said her family could not have been more horrified by what happened to her nephew: He was shot by police days after Hurricane Katrina hit, then left to die in a car that a police officer drove to a deserted levee and set ablaze. Now she wants to know what happened to her nephew's skull.
Glover said the family was relieved after a jury last week convicted three current or former officers in Henry Glover's death, the burning of his body and the doctoring of a report on the shooting.
"But I still want to know what they did with his head," she said. "We want his skull back."
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and even New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas want to find out what happened to the skull.
Orleans Parish coroner Dr. Frank Minyard said Glover's skull was not among the disconnected bones that arrived at the makeshift morgue set up after the storm.
"The skull was something that would have been extremely important," Minyard said on Monday. "We would have been able to determine if he was shot in the head."
The cause of Glover's death remains listed as unclassified, Minyard said. He said one of the bones had metal fragments that could have come from a gunshot wound, or from the burned car.
William Tanner, a motorist who picked up the wounded Glover and drove him to a temporary police station looking for help, said he later saw Glover's skull in the back of his burned car, and even has pictures of it.
"It was there and then it was just gone," Tanner said. "Somebody took it."
In 2009, a Pittsburgh television station aired a report that showed video shot by a pair of Pennsylvania detectives who were in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The video showed a skull in the back of the burned car.
The NAACP's New Orleans branch has asked the U.S. Justice Department to keep its investigation open until investigators determine what happened to Glover's skull.
If they cannot find the skull, the civil rights group is asking the judge to make it a significant part of the sentencing process, said Danatus King, president of the NAACP's New Orleans branch.
"The only information we have is the knowledge that (the officers) benefited by the skull being missing," King said. "The skull could have shown that Mr. Glover was shot in the head. So with it missing, who benefits?"
U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said on Monday he could not comment on the missing skull.
A former officer, David Warren, was convicted of manslaughter for shooting Glover. Officer Greg McRae was found guilty of driving the car the dying man was in to the levee and setting it on fire. Lt. Travis McCabe was convicted of writing a false report on the shooting and of lying to the FBI and a grand jury.
At the request of McRae's lawyer, U.S. District Judge Lance Africk barred prosecutors from referring to the missing skull during opening statements for the trial. But prosecutors said they didn't intend to argue or imply that the defendants removed or tampered with the skull, Africk said.