Hurricane Katrina anniversary: Family of black man killed and burned by police still fighting for justice

Henry Glover was killed in the chaotic days after the hurricane struck

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The remains of Henry Glover were discovered in the back seat of a burned-out Chevrolet Malibu.

The police officers who went to the scene did not know for some time the remains were his; his body – found on a levee close to the Mississippi River - had been so badly burned that all that was left were some ashes, bones and a scarred skull. The collection of fragments was initially just assigned a number: 06-00189.

Mr Glover, a black, 31-year-old father-of-four, was shot and killed in the the New Orleans suburb of Algiers, in the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

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The burned-out Chevrolet Malibu in which Henry Glover's remains were found

This week, President Barack Obama visited New Orleans and praised “the extraordinary resilience” of the city and its people. On Saturday, people remembered those who were killed and the hundreds of thousands of people whose lives were turned upside down.

But ten years after Katrina tore through Louisiana, killing more than 1,800 people and causing $100bn worth of damage, the family of Mr Glover is still waiting for justice. Five former officers of the New Orleans Police Department were charged over his death but only one served prison time.

“That’s the way it is,” Mr Glover’s aunt, Rebecca Glover, told The Independent. “It’s because they’re police officers. If you or I had shot somebody, we’d be in the penitentiary.”

 

The killing of Mr Glover is one of many reports that emerged in the days after Katrina struck, in which the city’s police officers were accused of taking the law into their own hands and of acting with impunity. Amid the stories of police behaving heroically, there were also reports of extra-judicial killings by a force that was lacking leadership and struggling to respond to the catastrophe.

Earlier this month, a judge ruled that five other former New Orleans police officers accused over the shooting dead two of unarmed black men in a separate case, should face a new trial.

Four of the officers were charged over the shooting dead of the two men at the city’s Danziger Bridge on 4 September 2005, a week after the hurricane hit. The fifth is accused over the alleged cover-up of that incident. The families of those two dead men – like the family of Mr Glover - are similarly waiting for a result.

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David Warren and his wife after his 2013 acquittal

Mary Howell, a veteran civil rights lawyer from New Orleans, said that prior to Katrina there had a long history of a tension between the city’s police force and its largely black population. A number of high-profile incidents in which black suspects had been beaten or killed by police, had created an distrustful relationship.

“Going in to Katrina there had been a series of events and these issues had not been addressed,” she said.

When the storm struck, anywhere up to a third of the force was either unable or unwilling to report for duty. The result was a complete collapse.

“This needs to be addressed to be make this this does not happen again,” she said.

The killing of Henry Glover is a case that has taken many, complicated twists. In the summer of 2010, five officers were charged over his death.

Rookie David Warren was charged with fatally shooting him at a strip mall.

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Henry Glover's aunt, Rebecca Glover, said she will not stop fighting

Dwayne Scheuermann and officer Greg McRae were charged charged with assaulting two good samaritans who came to Mr Glover’s aid after he was shot and drove him to a police station, unaware that he had been shot by an officer.

The two were also indicted with burning his body and destroying evidence. Two other officers were charged with obstructing justice.

In 2010, Mr Warren was found guilty and sentenced to to 25 years and 9 months, but that verdict was vacated by an appeals court that said he should have been tried separately from the other officers.

At a second trial brought by federal prosecutors in December 2013, he was acquitted of any wrongdoing.

Mr Warren said he guarding a police substation from a second-floor balcony, and testified that he feared for his life when he shot Mr Glover because he thought he saw a gun in his  hand. He said he believed Mr Glover was going to rush him.

“I took the action I had to take,” he told reporters. “I still believe the actions I took that day were the proper actions.”

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McRae was sentenced to 17 years in prison for burning Mr Glover’s body  - he is appealing that verdict and a hearing is due to take place in September – but after the 2013 hearing Mr Glover’s relatives assumed they would never see anyone convicted of his killing.

Then earlier this year, New Orleans’ newly-appointed coroner made a ruling the family believe could be crucial.

After reviewing the case files of the FBI and federal prosecutors, Jeffery Rouse reclassified Mr Glover’s death as a homicide. Previously it had been “undetermined”.

“Having received additional information, it became very clear to me that the appropriate classification was homicide,” Dr Rouse said at the time, according to NOLA.com.

“That is simply from a medical standpoint, and simply means a death was caused by the intentional actions of another person. It is not a legal finding of manslaughter or justifiable or murder or anything of that nature.”

Since, then pressure has been growing on the city’s prosecutor, Leon Cannizzaro, to bring charges against Mr Warren for a third time.

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Leon Cannizzaro has been under pressure to announce a new prosecution

At a press conference earlier this year, shortly after Mr Glover’s death was reclassified as a homicide, activists suggested some officials had not acted because of the dead’s man was black.

“Because of the delay in leadership, of the former coroner, the colour of law has been called into question,” the group Community United for Change said in a statement.

Ms Glover said Mr Cannizzaro had told her he would make a decision by September. His office did not respond to inquiries. But Mr Warren’s lawyer, Rick Simmons, insisted his client was innocent and that he would fight any efforts to try him once against.

“He always said he shot him. The question was, was it a justifiable homicide. A jury of 12 citizens said that it was,” he said. “I’ve been representing all this time and I still believe he is not guilty of murder.”

Ms Glover said she found the strength to keep fighting for her nephew though the “grace of God” and a burning sense of injustice.

“He did not deserve this,” she added. “I just want to make sure it does not happen to anyone else.”

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