A federal appeals court panel has upheld the firing of former New Orleans Police Department SWAT commander Jeffrey Winn for failing to report what he said he learned about the burning of a car on the Algiers levee with Henry Glover’s body inside it, four days after Hurricane Katrina made landfall.
Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judges Grady Jolly, Edward Prado and Catharina Haynes ruled that they couldn’t find that Winn’s firing “was motivated by an improper reason” because he’d already had his day in state court and lost.
The appeals panel also agreed with a lower court decision dismissing Winn’s legal action against the city and former NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas.
“We fought as long as we could and on as many fronts as we could,” Winn’s attorney, Eric Hessler, said after the decision.
A 26-year veteran of the force, Winn was canned for not speaking up when, during a state and federal probe of Glover’s shooting and the burning of his body, Lt. Dwayne Scheuermann told him what had happened with Glover’s body, saying he thought Winn already knew.
On Sept. 2, 2005, Winn had told Scheuermann and Officer Gregory McRae to drive the Chevy Malibu with Glover’s body to the levee, but he later testified he didn’t learn about the burning until 2009. He then did not alert his superiors.
Hessler said Winn, as a possible target of an FBI probe, was merely exercising his right to be silent.
On Monday, Hessler said he believes Winn was fired for his testimony in the federal case. Of the five officers who stood trial in 2010, three were convicted. Only one of those convictions — that of McRae, for burning the car — has stood up.
The federal appeals panel ruled that Winn’s appeal of his firing first to the Civil Service Commission and then to a state appeals court gave him “a full and fair opportunity” to challenge his firing.
Hessler said he doesn’t envision any more legal challenges by Winn.
“He doesn’t deserve it after his career in the Marines and the NOPD,” Hessler said. “He exercised his right to remain silent. He fought to protect those rights as a Marine, and he ends up being tarnished.”
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.