Nearly a decade after New Orleans police fatally shot Henry Glover and incinerated his corpse, Glover’s death has been classified as a homicide, Orleans Parish Coroner Dr. Jeffrey Rouse announced Wednesday.
Rouse’s predecessor, longtime Coroner Frank Minyard, had declined to reclassify Glover’s cause of death, leaving it “undetermined” even after a former New Orleans police officer, David Warren, acknowledged at two federal trials that he shot Glover, 31, with a high-powered rifle from the second-floor breezeway of an Algiers strip mall on Sept. 2, 2005.
A second former officer, Gregory McRae, admitted igniting Glover’s body in a car behind the Algiers levee, but he maintained that act was not part of a cover-up but rather a reaction to post-traumatic stress disorder that he and other first responders experienced after Hurricane Katrina.
McRae was convicted and sentenced to 17 years in federal prison. He is the only one of the five NOPD officers accused in the Glover case ultimately to be held accountable for what federal prosecutors portrayed in a 2010 trial as a conspiracy to cover up an unjustifiable police shooting, in part by burning the key piece of evidence: Glover’s body.
The classification of homicide “simply requires the action of one person causing the death of another,” Rouse said in a news release. “This action today reflects my medical opinion, based upon the totality of the evidence, that the death of Henry Glover was due to the actions of another person.”
Rouse’s decision paves the way for Glover’s family to urge District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office to take a new look at the case, 16 months after a federal jury acquitted Warren in a retrial. Cannizzaro’s office has not yet weighed in on the Glover case, but legal experts have characterized a coroner’s determination of homicide as a necessary first step to any viable prosecution for a killing.
News of Rouse’s decision drew a wide smile and tears from Bernard Calloway, who was with Glover when Warren fired a single shot from his personal Sig Arms 550-ISP assault rifle in a nearly deserted city four days after Katrina made landfall.
“Oh my god! I’ve been prayin’ on this!” Calloway said. “I’m just blown away. I’m just in awe. I just can’t believe after 10 years it’s happening.”
After the shooting, Calloway traveled with the shot and bloodied Glover and Edward King, Glover’s brother, in passerby William Tanner’s white Chevy Malibu to seek medical help at an outpost authorities had set up at nearby Habans Elementary School.
Calloway, 44, claims that when the group got there, police beat him while his friend died unattended in the backseat of the Malibu. He has filed a federal lawsuit, which remains on hold and may be delayed further by Rouse’s decision. Calloway, who said he still suffers from PTSD and has recurring nightmares of being shot, said that if the new ruling slows his case further, that’s OK by him.
“I’m stupid happy. I’m not happy for me. I’m happy for Henry’s children, for his kids, man. Happy for his mother,” he said.
Calloway, who testified at both trials, said he’s ready to do so again should Cannizzaro choose to prosecute Warren, or anyone else, in state court, as Glover’s family hopes.
“The truth is the truth. I’m gonna get up and say the same thing I’ve been saying for 10 years,” he said.
Secret information from FBI
The case was originally deemed an accident in May 2006, when DNA helped identify Glover’s remains. His death was the result of a “fire fatality,” the coroner ruled then.
But the classification was changed to “undetermined” in 2009. Minyard’s office reaffirmed that decision a year later, just as the first federal civil rights trial was getting underway against Warren and four other cops for the shooting, the subsequent burning of Glover’s body and an alleged cover-up.
Minyard, who left office last year after four decades and could not be reached for comment Wednesday, offered no explanation for the 2009 change. But he acknowledged doing nothing when Glover’s family asked for a reclassification in 2012.
Rouse said he evaluated a broader array of evidence than Minyard did. The switch to a classification of “homicide” required only that he find Glover’s death resulted from a deliberate act by another person, not necessarily with an intent to kill.
In an interview, Rouse said he reviewed all the available evidence in the case, including federal court transcripts, because he felt it was his duty “to be a good nerd about it and read every last word.” Warren stipulated in his second trial that he fatally shot Glover.
Most critical to his inquiry, however, was information he received “on loan from the FBI with the explicit instruction that I was not allowed to share it with anyone,” Rouse said.
“I haven’t spoken to my wife about it, my chief investigator about it, my lawyer about it, and unfortunately I can’t share it with you,” Rouse said. “I will say that it was thorough and more than sufficient for me to reach a medical determination that the appropriate classification of death in Mr. Glover’s case would be homicide.”
Asked what became of Glover’s skull, which disappeared sometime after his remains were recovered, Rouse said, “You’d have to ask the FBI for that information.”
Minyard, by contrast, said he had seen “no new scientific evidence (on which) to base a reclassification” when he chose to leave the cause of death undetermined before leaving office, months after Glover supporters stormed his office following Warren’s acquittal. Rouse said Minyard also had reached out to federal authorities about Glover’s death but “for whatever reason, they didn’t give him any information.”
“That’s the ball I picked up,” he said.
Rouse’s reclassification raises the possibility of state charges against Warren. But one of Warren’s attorneys, Rick Simmons, noted the lack of new forensic evidence. He cited two pathologists, both of whom have served as experts for the Justice Department, who said before Warren’s retrial that, at least scientifically, the “undetermined” classification was proper.
Simmons, in a statement, called it “fundamentally unfair, if not a violation of the principle of double jeopardy, to commence a third trial of Mr. Warren” in state court.
“Federal authorities have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars over four years, interviewing hundreds of witnesses, pursued two trials, and finally concluded there is no ballistics or forensic evidence in the case. Fundamental fairness dictates that with no additional evidence,” any notion of retrying Warren should be dropped, Simmons said.
“What’s new?” Simmons asked by phone Wednesday. “If somebody breaks into your house and you shoot them in self-defense, it’s a homicide by definition. This isn’t a shocking development.”
Under what is known as the dual-sovereignty doctrine, state prosecutors would not be barred from bringing a second-degree murder case against Warren, even though Warren was found not guilty in federal court, said Dane Ciolino, a Loyola University law professor.
“The double-jeopardy clause of the Bill of Rights prohibits the federal government from retrying him, but it doesn’t prevent a separate sovereign (the state) from trying him for the same charge,” he said.
Ciolino said it is unusual, though not unprecedented, to see such a prosecution after an acquittal. The decision, he added, will depend on prosecutorial discretion, and whether Cannizzaro’s office “wants to pick a 10-year-old scab.”
Warren, a rookie officer at the time of the shooting, was convicted in 2010 for his role in Glover’s death and sentenced to 25 years in prison. But the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated his conviction in 2012, finding that Warren’s case had been unduly prejudiced when he was made to stand trial alongside fellow officers accused in a cover-up, one prosecutors couldn’t show Warren knew anything about.
A jury found Warren not guilty of civil rights charges when he was retried alone in December 2013.
The appeals court also dismissed one count against McRae, who admitted burning Glover’s body, and ordered a new sentencing.
By then, U.S. District Judge Lance Africk already had tossed out the conviction of the third convicted officer, Lt. Travis McCabe, after a draft police report turned up in Warren’s case that contradicted allegations McCabe had doctored a police report on the shooting. Months after Warren’s acquittal, in December 2013, federal prosecutors declined to retry McCabe, who has since returned to the police force.
Africk last year left no doubt, as he resentenced McRae to an identical 17 years, that he thought Warren’s account of shooting Glover out of fear was bogus, and that McRae’s claim of burning Glover’s body in a fit of post-Katrina stress also failed the sniff test.
“You did not merely burn a corpse. You, a law enforcement officer, burned a corpse to obstruct justice,” Africk said. “The court remains convinced that Glover posed no immediate threat to Warren or any other individual and that he was merely an unarmed, non-dangerous man, whom Warren shot dead.”
‘I’ll go to the next level’
Glover’s aunt, Rebecca Glover, who had pressed Minyard to change the death determination, said she was stunned by the news Wednesday.
“My family has not heard anything,” she said. “That’s exactly what it is, a homicide. You see him laying in that car with the big old blood spot on his chest. They already admitted he shot him,” she said. “I guess I’ll go to the next level, try to get the people indicted by our DA. I don’t know what his outlook is on it, but that’s where I will go.”
Christopher Bowman, a spokesman for Cannizzaro, declined to comment on the reclassification.
Warren testified he feared for his life and pulled the trigger only after he saw two men storm the rear gate of the mall at Gen. De Gaulle and Texas drives in Algiers — a claim the second federal jury apparently believed.
Glover and Calloway had rolled up behind the shopping center in a stolen truck to fetch suitcases packed with looted items left behind by two female friends who lived nearby. Their plan, Calloway testified, was to grab the suitcases and clear out of town.
“No warning. It was: Pow. Gunfire. ‘Leave now,’ ” Calloway said Wednesday, recalling the shooting.
On Wednesday, Calloway teared up as he recalled Glover, saying his friend and brother-in-law was an avid reader and family man.
“He would go every morning like clockwork to get a cup of coffee and a newspaper. Every day. He was a guy always tried to do better. I knew him since he was a child, being a positive person. He was the disciplinarian for the kids,” Calloway said.
“The last time I saw him, I didn’t know if he was dead already. He was dying. He was laying in the back of Tanner’s car. They drove off with him. I never seen him no more.”
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