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Another Setback in Federal Investigation of New Orleans Police

Former officer acquitted in the death of Henry Glover.

It’s been eight years since New Orleans police officers killed Henry Glover and incinerated his body, leaving his charred remains in a scorched Chevy Malibu parked on the edge of the Mississippi River. There have been two criminal trials, an extensive federal probe, a state police investigation, and countless news stories.

And now, after all that, it seems entirely possible that only a single law enforcement figure will be held criminally accountable in connection with Glover’s slaying and the desecration of his corpse.

On Wednesday, a federal jury acquitted a former police officer, David Warren, of unlawfully shooting Glover with an assault rifle during the harrowing days after Hurricane Katrina ripped through the city.  Warren, 50, took the stand during the trial, testifying that he fired at Glover from the second floor of a strip mall because he believed Glover was armed and liable to attack him. (No weapon linked to Glover has ever been discovered.)

The legality of such shootings hinges on “reasonable belief.”  An officer can squeeze the trigger if he or she has reasonably concluded that they are facing a person who poses a serious physical threat.  Warren’s statements, it appears, helped to convince jurors that he acted lawfully, and after some 14 hours of deliberations they cleared him of violating Glover’s civil rights and using a firearm in the commission of crime.

This was Warren’s second time facing a jury. In late 2010, he was tried for the same offenses.  During that initial trial, he was flanked by four other officers charged in connection with Glover’s death and a series of grisly narratives spilled out in the courtroom.  There were allegations that officers physically attacked and terrorized three men who tried to save Glover’s life. There were allegations that cops engineered a cover up of the crimes.

That first jury convicted Warren of illegally shooting Glover and a judge handed him a 25-year prison sentence. Greg McRae, who admitted to torching Glover’s body, was hit with a 17-year prison term.  Travis McCabe was found guilty of sanitizing a police report about the shooting and misleading federal investigators.

During the initial trial, the jury acquitted two other veteran cops.

For federal prosecutors, who have spent years seeking to identify and punish corrupt cops in a city with a multi-decade history of horrific police misconduct, the first round of verdicts represented a significant victory.

But it all quickly began unraveling. A judge overturned McCabe’s conviction when he produced fresh evidence suggesting he may not have altered the police report in any meaningful way. Then a federal appeals court ruled in Warren’s favor, concluding that he should have been tried separately from his former colleagues. The appellate decision set the stage for Warren’s second trial and his acquittal Wednesday.

McCabe – a former lieutenant who has been fighting to get his job at the police department back – is currently slated to stand trial for a second time early next year. 

That leaves McRae, a burly former SWAT cop, who is appealing his conviction, as well. (He’s already had success in getting one relatively minor civil rights charge tossed.) At this juncture, McRae is the lone individual dwelling in a federal prison cell.

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