Alex Brandon, a former Times-Picayune photographer, testified in federal court Wednesday that shortly after Katrina, he followed up with Lt. Greg McRae about a strange situation Brandon had stumbled on in the storm's immediate aftermath.
There had been a bleeding man in a car, three handcuffed men lying on the ground, and what appeared to be a "contentious" situation, Brandon said.
Sitting in the cafeteria of a makeshift NOPD SWAT compound, the officer, McRae swiped his hand across his neck and said, simply, "NAT" -- police lingo for Necessary Action Taken.
The man they were referring to was Henry Glover, a 31-year-old resident of Algiers, La., who was shot by a police officer on Sept. 2, 2005, and whose charred remains were later found in a burnt-out car on the levee of the Mississippi River. Glover's death was first detailed by ProPublica nearly two years ago, in partnership with the Nation Institute and the Nation magazine.
Five years after the shooting, new facts are coming out in the trial of five current or former officers charged in connection with his death and a subsequent cover-up.
In his testimony on Wednesday, Brandon told the jury that he had walked up to the SWAT compound and seen the three men -- Glover's friend, brother and a good Samaritan -- lying handcuffed on the ground and saw Glover's body in the car. Officer McRae told him not to take photos, so he didn't.
In a Times-Picayune article about Brandon, editor Jim Amoss said the newspaper would have expected any news staffer to inform his editor about a violent incident such as Brandon witnessed. But after ProPublica and the Nation magazine broke the story of Glover's death in 2008, Brandon told the paper's photo editor that he had not witnessed any part of the incident.
Brandon is now working for the Associated Press in Washington, D.C. He declined our request for comment.
Brandon also took photos at other key incidents in the days after Katrina that have spawned federal investigations and indictments. He was embedded with the SWAT unit after the hurricane, and he witnessed the aftermath of the Danziger Bridge incident, in which six unarmed civilians were shot by police. He was also on the scene of the shooting of Keenon McCann, in which police shot the apparently unarmed man while he stood under a highway overpass waiting for help in the aftermath of the storm.
Brandon's photos, taken on the day of McCann's shooting, show Lt. Dwayne Scheuermann, who is on trial for beating the men who tried to aid Glover and for burning Glover's body, aiming his gun at McCann. Scheuermann and another officer -- Captain Jeff Winn -- have admitted shooting McCann, although they claim he was armed and posing a threat. No gun was found at the scene.
Six officers testified in trial Wednesday, including one who said he witnessed officers Scheuermann and McRae beating the three men at the SWAT compound. Another officer, Keyalah Bell, said she knew at the time that not only had Glover been shot by NOPD officer David Warren but that an unidentified body at the SWAT compound was Glover's.
Former NOPD Lt. Robert Italiano, who is charged with covering up the incident, has said that he didn't realize the body was Glover's.
Bell testified that she had been reluctant to volunteer her information because she did not want to become a target for retaliation. Other officers have said similar things in testimony -- that they had witnessed or knew key facts of the case but did not want to come forward, even to the extent of lying before a federal grand jury about their knowledge.
The Glover trial is expected to continue for the next few weeks. Our partners at the Times-Picayune will be covering it daily. For regular updates, check nola.com.