Judge hands out tough sentences in post-Katrina killing by police
By A.C. Thompson, ProPublica
A federal judge last week sentenced two former New Orleans police officers for killing Henry Glover and incinerating his body during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Judge Lance Africk sentenced ex-officer David Warren to 25 years for shooting Glover with an assault rifle, and sentenced former cop Greg McRae to 17 years for torching the man's corpse as it lay in a car parked on the banks of the Mississippi.
Travis McCabe, a former police lieutenant, has also been convicted in connection with Glover's death, but he is pushing for a new trial and has yet to be sentenced. Judge Africk is scheduled to hear McCabe's appeal on April 21.
Spurred by an investigation from ProPublica and The Nation magazine linking the killing to the New Orleans police force, federal agents began probing the matter, eventually bringing charges against Warren, McRae, McCabe and two others -- Lt. Dwayne Scheuermann and former Lt. Robert Italiano.
The five were tried late last year, with the jury acquitting Scheuermann and Italiano.
The slaying of Glover (a 31-year-old father of four), the desecration of his body and the police cover-up have captured international media attention and sparked calls to reform the long-troubled police force, a process now under way. Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Justice released a 158-page study documenting "systemic violations of civil rights" by New Orleans police and suggesting the police force had a pattern of covering up questionable conduct by cops.
Looking into incidents in which officers opened fire on civilians during the past two years, Justice Department investigators found the New Orleans police showed little interest in determining whether these shootings were proper and legally justified.
"The systemic deficiencies in NOPD's investigation and review of officer-involved shootings are so egregious that they appear in some respects to be deliberate," states the report. "NOPD officer-involved shooting investigations consistently fail to gather evidence, establish critical facts, or fairly analyze the evidence that is readily available."
In a March 17 press conference, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, who heads the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, said he would be seeking a consent decree, a legal maneuver likely to lead to an overhaul of the police force and ongoing monitoring by a federal judge.
New Orleans Police Chief Ronal Serpas, who took charge of the force last year, said he welcomed the scrutiny by the Justice Department and expected to have a judge looking over his shoulder. "When we finish this process with the Department of Justice, there will be oversight by a court," he said at the press conference.
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