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Behind the Headline: Rebecca Glover

Reporter A.C. Thompson dug into an “unclassified” death after Hurricane Katrina. He found out the victim was shot by police and died in custody. The victim’s aunt, Rebecca Glover, is grateful for the attention the case received but worries about others who haven’t seen justice.

Edmund D. Fountain, special to ProPublica

Impact has been at the core of ProPublica’s mission since we launched 10 years ago, and it remains the principal yardstick for our success today. For our 10th anniversary, we’re presenting stories of people whose lives have been affected by our work.

The incinerated body of Rebecca Glover’s nephew Henry was found in 2005 in a burned car on the banks of the Mississippi River. It was roughly a week after Hurricane Katrina ripped through New Orleans. Following a cursory probe, the Orleans Parish coroner ruled Henry’s death “unclassified,” and no law enforcement agency ever investigated the matter. Outside of his grieving family, no one seemed to know or care about Henry’s death at all.

“You got so much stuff that was swept under the rug, it’s unbelievable,” Glover said of the indifference from authorities. When ProPublica reporter A.C. Thompson approached the family in 2008, while reporting for his “Law & Disorder” series on deadly force used by the New Orleans Police Department in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, she was heartened. According to ProPublica’s examination of the final hours of Henry’s life, clues about his death pointed to the city’s police force.

“I prayed very hard for him not to give up on it,” Glover said of Thompson’s initial reporting. “If you live in New Orleans long enough, you’ll see people pretend they doing this and that. And, the next thing you know, they ain’t doing nothing.”

Thompson and others stayed on the story for more than three years. Through this sustained reporting, the world found out what happened: Henry was shot by one police officer and died in custody. His body was set on fire by another officer, and the circumstances of the case were covered up by yet another police official. Five officers were initially convicted on charges that included manslaughter, lying to federal agents, and burning Henry’s body — though all but one were cleared of all charges on appeal.

While grateful for the attention the case received after ProPublica’s reporting, Glover is disappointed by the four overturned convictions. “The stories made a whole lot of difference to our family, but I feel we got 10 percent of justice,” she said. “And we still have victims out there that have gotten no justice at all.”

Today, Glover is a leader in a community organization called Families Overcoming Justice, which meets once a week to share and hear testimony from New Orleans families that have experienced police brutality. “We’re letting other families know they’re not alone,” she said. “We’re there for each other.”

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