A New Orleans police officer who was painted as a hero during Hurricane Katrina, but who has a lengthy history of excessive force complaints, took the stand yesterday to defend his role in the killing of an unarmed man in the wake of the storm.
Lt. Dwayne Scheuermann is charged, along with NOPD Officer Greg McRae, in the beating of men who attempted to help Henry Glover after he had been shot by another police officer on Sept. 2, 2005. The two are also charged with burning Glover's remains in a car, which sat on a levee of the Mississippi River for weeks after the storm.
In testimony earlier this week, McRae admitted that he burned Glover's remains and said he did it after being overwhelmed by the number of dead bodies he had seen in recent days.
Glover's death was first detailed by ProPublica nearly two years ago, in an investigative partnership with the Nation Institute and the Nation magazine.
In court on Tuesday, Scheuermann said he followed McRae to the levee intending to leave the car there so Glover's remains would not have to sit at a makeshift police station. Scheuermann said he had no idea that McRae would then burn the car with Glover's body in it. (Our partners at the Times-Picayune have more details about Scheuermann's testimony.)
This fall, in a story with the Times-Picayune, we detailed Scheuermann's background of garnering more than 50 complaints, ranging from alleged brutality and rape to improper search and seizures. After internal investigations, Scheuermann was cleared each time and sent back to the streets. Scheuermann has also fired his gun in at least 15 separate incidents, something that an expert told us was "highly unusual." (Read details of a few of those incidents.)
By many accounts, Scheuermann was a heroic figure during Hurricane Katrina, rescuing stranded New Orleans residents from rooftops and flooded homes. But in addition to his alleged role in Glover's killing, Scheuermann was also one of two officers who shot Keenon McCann, an unarmed man who was shot on a downtown overpass in the wake of Katrina. The officers have said that McCann had a gun; none was ever found.
The Glover trial is expected to go to jury early next week. In addition to Scheuermann and McRae, three other NOPD officers are on trial. Officer David Warren has been charged with shooting Glover, and lieutenants Robert Italiano and Travis McCabe have been charged in the alleged cover-up.
The Times-Picayune is covering the trial daily. You can see their coverage at nola.com.