The 10th anniversary of Bernard Calloway’s storm fell on Wednesday.
Calloway spent the day holed up with an Xbox for movies and a 12-pack of Bud Light.
He said he got a call in the morning from Jared Fishman, a federal prosecutor. Fishman had tried the case against five police officers accused either of fatally shooting Calloway’s brother-in-law, Henry Glover, behind an Algiers strip mall on Sept. 2, 2005, or of burning Glover’s dead body in a car on the levee, or of later trying to cover it all up.
Fishman wanted to talk about true Katrina heroes. Calloway was in no mood for the call.
“I was feeling some kind of way. I didn’t want to cuss him out, talk bad to him, because I really feel they dropped the ball,” Calloway said.
He describes a merciless beating at the hands and rifle butts of New Orleans police officers when he, Glover’s brother, Edward King, and passerby William Tanner arrived at a medical outpost at nearby Habans Elementary School seeking help for the shot and dying Glover.
Calloway had been at his brother-in-law’s side minutes earlier when rookie NOPD Officer David Warren fired on Glover, and he testified at the 2010 federal trial where Warren was convicted and again in late 2013, when a unanimous jury acquitted the former cop on a retrial and set him free.
When the visions of that day return, what invariably comes to mind, he said, is deathly fear.
On Wednesday, the 44-year-old father of three shut off his phone and hunkered down.
“I didn’t even want to wake up in the morning. I was totally disgusted,” he said. “I said, ‘Ten years ago today, the most tragic thing that ever happened in my life transpired. Ten years ago, I lost faith in justice, fairness, equality and my belief in elected officials to do what’s right. My faith in God and humanity was viciously attacked. I’m only left with pieces of me, what I used to be.’ ”
A different calendar
Despite a weeklong national spotlight on the city’s regeneration culminating on Aug. 29, the anniversary of the storm, Calloway was among those who follow a different calendar. Their Katrina anniversary is set to another day, in another month, with closure still beyond grasp.
The Glover shooting occurred Sept. 2, 2005. The gunfire on the Danziger Bridge, where NOPD officers killed two people and severely injured others, came two days after that.
Just one of the 10 officers tried in those two bloody stains on the city’s reputation remains convicted: Gregory McRae, who admitted he drove Glover’s body to the levee in William Tanner’s 2001 Chevy Malibu and torched it using road flares.
Even McRae isn’t quite finished. He awaits a Nov. 12 resentencing, after a federal appeals court tossed out a second of four counts for which U.S. District Judge Lance Africk has twice handed McRae a 17-year prison sentence.
A recent appeals court decision in the Danziger case, meanwhile, endorsed U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt’s stunning 2013 decision to grant new trials to the five officers convicted in that case, based largely on the online blogging scandal that engulfed former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten’s office.
McRae remains convicted on counts of depriving Tanner of his right to be free from unreasonable seizure and of using fire to commit a felony, a charge that carries a minimum 10-year sentence.
Unlike Calloway, Tanner wasn’t paying much attention as the anniversary of Katrina’s landfall came and went, he said. His girlfriend was talking about it, but he was working and couldn’t be bothered.
“I know about what happened on Sept. 2,” Tanner said, sitting in a Claiborne Avenue seafood joint on Wednesday. “That’s when I lived that life. I’m just deeply hurt the way I got treated.”
Tanner finally got some due less than two years ago, in the form of a $6,000 check the city wrote him to cover his burned-up Malibu. The check went to the wrong address and had nearly expired when he found it, Tanner said. He plunked it down on a 2001 Nissan Pathfinder that now reads “Chill Will” on the front plate.
“It’s a lot of stress on a person. I get by. I’m the life of the party. I try to make every bad thing look good,” said Tanner, 48.
He said officers at the Habans School outpost kicked him twice in his stomach and hit him on the side of his cheek with an M-16. He was the first of the three people in the car with Glover to be released.
“Everybody says, ‘The stuff you went through, the cops beat you up, and you’re always happy,’ ” Tanner said. “From the start to the finish, I think about it every day.”
Ball in DA’s court
Glover and Calloway had gone to the strip mall that day to retrieve items pilfered by friends and left in a shopping cart behind the mall, according to testimony. But Warren claimed he saw them trying to storm the gated mall — a contention that Calloway mocks.
Warren claimed he saw what looked like a gun and feared for his life. At his second trial, hearing only evidence surrounding the shooting and nothing about the burning of Glover’s body or an alleged cover-up of his death, a jury in December 2013 found Warren not guilty.
A recent decision by Orleans Parish Coroner Jeffrey Rouse’s office, deeming Glover’s death a homicide, put the ball back in the court of District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, whom Glover’s family has begged to launch a state prosecution of Warren. A Cannizzaro spokesman said the district attorney continues to review the evidence.
Warren, who fired on Glover from the mall’s second-story breezeway, couldn’t be reached. His attorney, Rick Simmons, offered few details on Warren’s life since his acquittal, saying only that he can’t find a job.
Warren, 53, is a father of five who left a family business in classroom furniture and choir risers in his native Wisconsin to become a New Orleans police officer. He spent 3 1/2 years behind bars on a 25-year sentence that an appeals court eventually overturned, claiming his prosecution was tainted by the evidence against the other officers.
“I took the action that I had to take. We have spent years talking about something that lasted seconds,” Warren said upon his release. “I do not have regrets. I felt that I acted properly, and I still feel that I acted properly.”
Calloway says he didn’t even know where the shot that struck Glover came from, much less that it was fired by a police officer. They fled, and as soon as they reached the school, seeking medical help, Calloway and Tanner both say they, and King, were taken from their vehicle at gunpoint and pummeled by officers.
“There was no way to duck them punches. We were double-handcuffed. I got Henry’s blood all over me, my blood all over me. There’s no way to duck the butt of a shotgun hitting you in your face and splitting me all in my head,” he said. “In the midst of all that I said, ‘I’m about to die.’ I asked God, ‘Please allow me to make peace with you and watch over my children before I die.’ I never been a hostage. I never been at another man’s mercy like this. I don’t even know how to plead for my life.”
Lack of recognition
Calloway, now a legal assistant for defense attorney Mimi Van Horn, said he suffers from PTSD, anxiety, severe depression and insomnia. He’s seen a psychiatrist and a psychologist. Until lately, when he beefed up his medication, he said, his condition had gotten worse.
He can turn sour quickly, becoming antisocial and combative.
“He gets short-tempered. Somebody pushes him, he tells them they’re fired,” Van Horn said. “If there’s a little bit of disorder, it’s a mess. He can’t go to the Quarter. If he wasn’t in this sheltered situation, I don’t see how it would work. When he feels that something’s unfair, he’s completely out of control.”
Calloway openly acknowledges his struggles.
“I don’t even know how to socialize with women and be in a productive relationship. I’m always so paranoid and angry, and it’s stopping me,” he said.
“I know what to tell ’em and they seem to like me, but once I start talking to ’em, I get antisocial. I get secluded to myself and I don’t want nobody around me, especially if they anger me one time, they’re fired. And that’s not fair. That’s wrong, but that’s how this affected my life.”
What irks him, Calloway said, is a lack of recognition for his role as a key victim witness who alerted federal authorities to what he said he saw and suffered that day.
Calloway and Glover’s family members still await movement on a federal lawsuit against the city over Glover’s killing. It remains on hold until the criminal case is resolved.
Calloway, who said he received phone call threats after leaving for Texas, would, until recently, change his phone every few months.
He insists the city should come to the table and reach a settlement.
“Now who’s the key witness in the Henry Glover case? Who stood up to say, ‘No. Uh-uh. They lying’?” Calloway said. “They put on the freakin’ radio, ‘Oh, we’re gonna’ honor these Katrina heroes.’ How come I didn’t get a big old gold invitation saying, ‘C’mon down. We want to honor y’all’?”
While the retrial jury’s acquittal of Warren was unanimous, Africk thought differently, saying that in his view, Warren committed manslaughter, not a justifiable homicide.
Simmons, Warren’s attorney, insists there’s nothing new to justify Cannizzaro trying Warren again on anything. In a statement, Simmons also urged the city to resolve the civil lawsuits.
“It is hoped that after 10 years, the city, through the mayor, and NOPD would agree to mediate the family’s grievances which are real, in lieu of further litigation of any type and bring closure to this matter,” Simmons said.
A decade after one fired down on the other, Warren and Calloway happen to agree on that one point.
“I’ve been living it every day for 10 years,” Calloway said. “Every day, the same unwakable nightmare.”
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.