Post-Katrina Shootings by Police: Where Things Stand
Brett Duke/The Times-Picayune
Last month, a parade of New Orleans police officers took the stand in the trial of five current or former police officers charged with killing Henry Glover, burning his body, and covering up the crime.
Glover was one of 11 civilians shot by police in the days after Hurricane Katrina struck, and the trial was the first in a series that is expected to continue next year. One former and two current officers were convicted of Glover’s death or participating in the cover up. Eleven others, who admitted during testimony that they either lied to federal officials or withheld knowledge of the crime, have been reassigned to desk duty or suspended pending further investigation. Beyond uncovering the details behind Glover’s gruesome death, the trial also exposed that problems within the department go beyond a few bad apples and are of a systemic nature.
In December 2009, ProPublica, PBS "Frontline" and the Times-Picayune rolled out a series of stories on six cases of suspected police brutality in the days after Hurricane Katrina. In the year since those stories ran, investigations by the Department of Justice have probed many of the cases, resulting in indictments. But for some cases, there are still more questions than answers.
Case One: Religious Street. On Sept. 1, 2005, NOPD officers attacked two handcuffed men and sought to keep reporters from documenting it. Times-Picayune City Editor Gordon Russell stumbled upon the scene that day, and it took him five years to reconstruct what happened. Months after publishing Russell's account of what he saw, the Times-Picayune was able to locate the men who were beaten that day and air the story of what happened.
Case Two: Matt McDonald. On Sept. 3, 2005, now-retired NOPD officer Bryant Wininger shot and killed McDonald in the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood. The police department said that McDonald had reached for a handgun, prompting Wininger to shoot. But until McDonald’s family was called by a reporter, they never knew he had been killed by a police officer.
An autopsy -- which the coroner’s office said it had misplaced -- showed that McDonald was shot in the back. Two independent experts who looked at the autopsy said he was likely in a crouched, protective position, or lying flat on his stomach when he was shot. On Feb. 19, 2010, ProPublica and the Times-Picayune reported that federal officials had subpoenaed documents related to the case. But a year after a story first exposed McDonald’s death, questions still remain. The Justice Department would not comment on whether an investigation was pending.
Case Three: Danny Brumfield. Either late on Sept. 2, 2005 or early the next morning, Danny Brumfield was shot by an officer as he attempted to waive down a police car for help. Police said that Brumfield had jumped on top of the car and that he had attempted to stab an officer through an open window. His family said the police car had actually rammed Brumfield, throwing him onto the hood, and that an officer had shot him afterwards apparently for no reason.
On Sept. 30, 2010, NOPD officers Ronald Mitchell and Ray Jones were indicted for lying and obstruction of justice in relation to the shooting. A jury trial is scheduled for August 2011.
Case Four: Keenon McCann. On Sept. 1, 2005, two NOPD SWAT officers -- Capt. Jeff Winn and Lt. Dwayne Scheuermann -- opened fire on a man they said was armed and suspected of robbing people on a highway overpass. They shot Keenon McCann, who survived. The gun that McCann allegedly had was never found. Winn and Scheuermann were questioned for just 11 and seven minutes, respectively. McCann went on to sue the department, but while that case was pending, he was lured outside of his home and killed. As of now, no charges have been filed in the case. The Justice Department would not comment on whether an investigation was pending.
Case Five: Henry Glover. It's been two years since ProPublica, with support from The Nation Institute first wrote about the death of Henry Glover, who was killed on Sept. 2, 2005. His charred remains were later found in a burnt-out car on a levee of the Mississippi River. Over the course of 2010, our reporters and partners revealed more pieces of information about the case, including that a police officer had shot Glover, that a police report was allegedly doctored and that a "missing person" report had been filed by Glover’s mother.
In June 2010, the Justice Department indicted five current or former officers for their role in the shooting of Henry Glover, the burning of his body, and the cover-up. A jury convicted Officer David Warren of shooting Glover, Officer Greg McRae of burning his body, and Lt. Travis McCabe of covering up the crime. On August 25, 2010, PBS "Frontline" aired "Law and Disorder," an hour-long documentary about Glover's death and the New Orleans Police Department. The documentary also examined allegations that in the days after Katrina, an order circulated among the department that officers were allowed to shoot looters. The day after a story and the documentary ran, federal officials launched an inquiry into those orders.
Case Six: Danziger Bridge. On Sept. 4, 2005, police ended up in a firefight with a group of civilians on Danziger Bridge. Six civilians were shot, two fatally. No officers were injured. Over time, it came out that none of the civilians either had guns on them or fired at officers.
A retired police lieutenant pleaded guilty on Feb. 24, 2010. Four others followed quickly in his footsteps. Only two have been sentenced so far. A total of 11 officers have been charged in the case. A trial is scheduled for June 2011.
In addition to those six cases, the Department of Justice also looked into alleged racial shootings in the predominantly white neighborhood of Algiers Point. ProPublica and The Nation first detailed those shootings on Dec. 19, 2008. Over the course of a year-long investigation, the groups -- along with the Times-Picayune -- were able to identify Roland J. Bourgeois Jr. as the likely assailant of three African-American men. On July 15, 2010, Bourgeois was hit with federal civil rights charges that he opened fire on a trio of African American men as they walked through his neighborhood a few days after the hurricane.