NEW ORLEANS – One of the two New Orleans police officers charged with burning a police shooting victim's body after Hurricane Katrina testified Tuesday that he was shocked when his colleague set the fire.
"There was no discussion whatsoever. Not even a hint of it. It was a shock," Lt. Dwayne Scheuermann said of Officer Gregory McRae's setting fire to a car with the body of 31-year-old Henry Glover in the back seat.
But Scheuermann said it might have slipped his mind to tell his commanding officer, Capt. Jeffrey Winn, that McRae set the fire.
Winn, who commanded the department's SWAT team, which included Scheuermann and McRae, said he didn't know one of his officers burned Glover's body until Scheuermann told him in 2009, more than four years after the fact.
"I knew the car and the body had been burned, but I didn't know who did it," Winn testified Tuesday during a trial for five current or former officers charged with various offenses in Glover's death.
Scheuermann said he thought he told Winn shortly after the incident but might have made an "honest mistake" and didn't until 2009.
"I would never hide anything from Captain Winn, not intentionally," Scheuermann said.
A former officer, David Warren, is charged with shooting Glover without justification outside a strip mall on Sept. 2, 2005. Former Lt. Robert Italiano and Lt. Travis McCabe are charged with obstructing the federal probe. All five current and former officers have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Scheuermann and McRae are charged with deprivation of rights under color of law for allegedly burning the body and car. They also are charged with beating people who, seeking help for Glover after he was shot, brought him to a school that SWAT team members were using after the August 2005 hurricane. Scheuermann and McRae both denied physically abusing any of the three men.
Winn isn't charged with any wrongdoing in the case.
Scheuermann said Winn instructed him and McRae to drive Glover's body away from a makeshift police headquarters for "health reasons." But Scheuermann and Winn said they didn't know McRae intended to set the car on fire. In testimony this week, McRae admitted tossing a flare into the car's front seat and shooting out the rear window to ventilate it. McRae said he didn't tell anyone about his plan.
Under cross-examination Tuesday, McRae said he didn't think he was doing anything wrong when he burned the corpse. Earlier, McRae said he was weary of seeing dead bodies after Katrina and didn't want to let another one rot. McRae said it wasn't until later that he realized he had made a "terrible mistake" when he burned the car.
"There was no justification for what I did," McRae said.
McRae said the car he burned "was meaningless to me" because he couldn't use it.
"And Henry Glover was meaningless to you?" asked a prosecutor, Jared Fishman.
"No, sir, apparently he's not," McRae said.