An attorney for former New Orleans police officer David Warren portrayed him as a man jarred by citywide lawlessness and staring down death from a pair of looters charging toward an unlocked gate when he fatally shot Henry Glover from the second-floor breezeway of an Algiers strip mall days after Hurricane Katrina made landfall.
A federal prosecutor painted a far different picture, telling jurors that Warren saw looters as “animals who deserve to be shot” when he gazed into the “magnification red-dot scope” of his personal assault rifle and took the chaotic aftermath of the hurricane as an opportunity as he fired on a retreating Glover at close range from above.
The retrial in a civil-rights case stripped of salacious evidence over the burning of Glover’s body and a whitewashing of the shooting investigation got underway Wednesday morning, with dramatic contrasts in the view of Warren’s mindset when he fired a single hollow-point bullet at Glover on Sept. 2, 2005.
The jury of eight women and four men heard both sides agree to some undisputed facts in the case, to avoid any evidence that might fly in the face of an appeals court ruling last year that overturned Warren’s 2010 conviction and 25-year prison sentence. The appeals court found that the case against Warren was tainted by evidence against four other officers over the burning and coverup.
Both sides conceded that Warren shot the 31-year-old Glover; that the shooting caused his death; that Glover’s brother, his friend Bernard Calloway and a passer-by, William Tanner, drove him to Habans Elementary School for medical attention he never got; and that Glover’s remains “were in such a condition that a full autopsy gathering additional forensics” with ballistics tests and other evidence wasn’t possible.
Even so, several experts are expected to debate what the limited forensic evidence available shows.
Just how the body got that way — from another officer driving it to a nearby levee and setting the white Pontiac Malibu aflame with Glover’s body in the back seat — will remain unsaid in a case expected to run through next week.
Also left unsaid, during the opening statement from U.S. Attorney Jared Fishman, were allegations from the first trial that the men who took Glover to the elementary school, where police had set up an emergency post, were beaten there.
Warren faces charges that Warren was acting under “color of law” when he violated Glover’s civil rights by shooting him, and that he illegally discharged his personal SIG Arms 550 assault rifle in the commisson of a violent crime.
Warren sat quietly in a dark suit, with Glover’s family members in the gallery, as jury heard the conflicting accounts, including a dispute over whether the first-floor gate at the back parking lot of the strip mall was locked or not when Glover and Calloway rolled up to retrieve suitcases full of stolen items left behind by a pair of female friends.
Also in dispute: Whether Glover was shot in the chest or the back, and what Warren’s intention were, earlier in the day, when he fired a shot in the direction of a lone man seen roaming in front of the mall.
Fishman suggested the shot from Warren was a dangerous, sinister hint of his mindset at the time, when he fired toward the “unarmed, empty-handed” man from more than 100 yards away.
“You will hear that defendant Warren lifted his gun, looked into that scope and fired a round at that unarmed civilian,” then acted nonchalantly when his partner that day, veteran officer Linda Howard, questioned the shot.
Julian Murray, an attorney for Warren, countered that the warning shot “was a good thing to do. It wasn’t a bad thing to do,” though he conceded it violated NOPD policy.
“He didn’t do it to be evil. He did it to warn him, to let him know, ‘Look, we’re up here, we’re armed, don’t do something stupid.”
According to Murray, Warren later fired on Glover for fear the two men would enter through the ground-level gate and surround him. Murray painted Warren as a “God-fearing” man who stayed behind to protect the city, though he could have left with his wife and five children.
“The last thing he thought before firing his shot was, ‘I’ll never see my little boy again,’” Murray said. “And just before (Glover) got through that gate, he raised his rifle and he shot. It was not intentional. It was not premeditated. It was not something he thought through. It was a reaction, because he thought he was going to be killed.”
Fishman, however, said the evidence is clear that Glover was fleeing when Warren fired.
With the jury absent, after opening statements, both sides were arguing Wednesday morning over whether any mention of Glover’s burned body — never mind how it got burned — will be allowed into evidence.
The lack of jurors from New Orleans — just one among the 12 jurors and four alternates — likely is a result of the familiarity of city residents with the fate of Glover’s body, which U.S. District Judge Lance Africk said was a disqualifier for jury selection.
Jurors also were disqualified who were aware of a cover-up, or the fact that this is a retrial, Africk said.
The appeals court found that Warren, who was tried with four other officers, never got a fair shake because of all the evidence of the burning of Glover’s body and the cover-up, in which he had no apparent involvement.
Calloway, the prosecution’s first witness , took the stand just before 11 a.m.