In Wake of Glover Verdicts, What's Next for New
Orleans' Troubled Police Force?
by A.C. Thompson
December 10, 2010
One of the most striking moments in the federal civil
rights prosecutions arising from the death of Henry
Glover came when Lt. Dwayne Scheuermann, a police
officer lauded in New Orleans for his heroic work after
Hurricane Katrina, took the stand.
Scheuermann told jurors he watched his colleague,
officer Greg McRae set fire to a car containing the
corpse of the 31-year old man, igniting a blaze that
reduced the body to little more than bone fragments,
ashes, and scorched meat.
McRae burned Glover's body so thoroughly that a
forensic pathologist had to saw off a piece of bone and
send it out for DNA testing so the remains could be
identified. For about nine months, Glover was known
only as coroner's case number 06-00189 while his family
members searched to find out what had happened to him.
The jury found McRae's behavior a crime, and reasonable
people might view it as the sort of horrific conduct
practiced by the security agents of authoritarian
regimes. Yet as Scheuermann told the story, there was
no indication he did anything to alert his superiors or
co-workers or anybody else to the incineration of a
human being -- one who it turns out had just been shot
by another police officer.
Last night a federal jury in New Orleans rendered a
verdict in the Glover case, convicting two police
officers (for burning the man's corpse, violating civil
rights, obstructing justice, and misleading federal
investigators) and a former cop (for shooting Glover
with a .223 caliber assault rifle).
Scheuermann, a 23-year veteran of the force, won't be
going to prison: The jury cleared him of any wrongdoing
(he'd been charged with participating in the arson, as
well as civil rights violations and obstruction of
justice). The jury also acquitted former Lt. Robert
Italiano (he was accused of creating a bogus police
report and lying to the FBI).
The question now facing Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Police
Chief Ronal Serpas is: What verdict do they want to
Trials are a blunt instrument for reforming police
departments -- they typically target a small number of
cops who may have committed a handful of acts whose
criminality can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Juries are reluctant to convict cops, even without the
extenuating circumstances created by the collapse in
public order that was post-Katrina New Orleans.
As of today, Scheuermann remains in the employ of the
New Orleans Police Department. But his admissions
during the Glover trial, not to mention his history in
uniform, which includes some 15 shooting incidents (a
very high number for any cop) and more than 50 citizen
complaints, raise questions about whether his police
career should continue.
If the city really wants to transform its police force,
NOPD officials and the mayor will need to thoroughly
examine what has been revealed by these cases,
regardless of whether the officers involved were
convicted, acquitted, or testified with grants of
Several officers took the stand during the Glover trial
and admitted that they had lied to federal
Scheuermann's statements during this trial -- and the
testimony of those other officers -- make it clear that
the issues with the New Orleans police go far beyond
the misconduct by a few rogue cops.
I've been reporting in New Orleans for more than three
years, and I can say I've never encountered more people
who are terrified of the police. Looking at the sad and
awful death of Henry Glover, it's easy to see why.
* * *
Let's go back to 2007.
On a cool September day that year, I stepped into the
living room of Edna Glover's town home in the William
J. Fischer Housing Development, a public housing
complex in the Algiers section of New Orleans.
When I'd arranged to meet with Edna the day before, I'd
assumed we'd be speaking one-on-one. But now, I
discovered, the living room of her small, tidy house
was packed with at least a dozen family members and
I'd contacted Edna in hopes of learning what had become
of her son, Henry Glover, who'd died shortly after
Hurricane Katrina raged through Louisiana. I knew very
little about Henry Glover, but I'd uncovered a pair of
facts that intrigued me: 1) a witness had said Glover
died while in the custody of the New Orleans Police
Department, and 2) some kind of fire had reduced
Glover's body to "extensively charred bone fragments,"
according to the autopsy report.
I figured my conversation with Edna would allow me to
easily reconstruct Glover's final hours -- and if it
seemed that he'd been the victim of some kind of
injustice, I'd write up a story.
But as I stepped into the house and began speaking with
the extended Glover clan, I quickly found the roles
reversed. The family had gathered because they were
hoping I could explain to them who had killed Glover
and exactly what role the police had played in his
demise. At that point, it had been two years since
Glover died, yet the people closest to him still had
only a vague sketch of his death, and they hadn't been
able to pry any information out of the police
department or prod the cops into actually opening an
"We didn't hear nothing" from the police department,
Edna told me.
I was chilled. It felt like I had walked into a scene
from Pinochet's Chile, with mothers desperately
demanding to know what the dictator had done with their
That day I spoke to Glover's brother, Edward King, and
William Tanner, both of whom had been with Glover when
he died. The men said somebody -- they didn't know who
-- had shot Glover near a strip mall in the Algiers
section of New Orleans on Sept. 2, 2005.
King, Tanner and another man placed Glover in Tanner's
car and drove him to a site where they thought he could
get medical treatment: an elementary school that had
been turned into a makeshift police encampment by SWAT
But the officers, both men said, greeted them with
immediate hostility, physically attacking them and
leaving Glover to bleed to death in the car. "They
called my brother a piece of shit," recalled King
during that interview. "They was saying a lot of crazy
shit." King, who did not testify at trial, was
mystified as to why the cops were so angry. He had no
idea who had fired the shot which hit his brother.
Tanner remembered seeing one cop, with flares sticking
out of his pants pocket, get into his vehicle and drive
away with Glover's body. The next time anybody saw
Glover his body had been incinerated.
Not surprisingly, the Glover family believed the police
What eventually spilled out during the trial made it
clear that things were even worse than I or the Glover
family thought back then. Not only did cops desecrate
Glover's body, it was a police officer who'd shot him,
and police officers who worked to cover it all up.
* * *
In 2008, as I continued to search for clues, I met with
a law enforcement source who showed me photos of
Glover's incinerated remains, which lay scattered
around the inside of the burnt car. The man's blackened
skull featured prominently in many of the photos.
The source was scared. This person was worried that if
anybody learned we were talking, something bad would
happen, like an NOPD officer might plant "a couple
kilos of coke" on the source during a traffic stop. At
the time I thought the person was paranoid and had
probably watched Training Day too many times.
I now believe this person had some reason for that
fear. A strain of corruption has plagued the department
for decades. Earlier this year I interviewed Mike
Thames, an ex-cop, who served on the force during the
1980s and 1990s. Thames told me about how he allowed
drug dealers to distribute their product with impunity
(so long as they shared the proceeds with him),
protected gambling rings, and robbed legitimate
Thames said his superiors were aware of his extra-
curricular activities. "They knew what I was doing.
They knew what me, and my friends, were doing. They ...
they knew the whole way."
Significantly, it wasn't the NOPD's internal affairs
unit or the local district attorney that eventually
took Thames down: He went to prison for bank robbery, a
Kevin Diel, an ex-officer who served during Katrina and
its aftermath, says his former colleagues planted drugs
and drug paraphernalia on innocent people. "A lot of
the task forces and narcotics guys really kind of get
involved in that because of all the pressure from the
upper brass," he said. "It's to make numbers, your
That kind of criminal misconduct, he said, occurred "on
a regular basis," because speaking out about it might
lead to severe retaliation from other officers, who
were known to deny "breathing privileges" to
Perhaps this fear explains the most disturbing fact to
come out of the trial:
Nobody within the New Orleans Police Department ever
tried to bring Warren, McRae and the rest to justice.
Nobody went to the chief. Nobody went to internal
affairs. Nobody went to the local district attorney or
the state attorney general or the U.S. Department of
Every single officer who knew about the circumstances
of Glover's demise, and there were easily a dozen of
them, was content to simply let him disappear.
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