NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The death of a man shot by a police officer in the chaos following Hurricane Katrina was newly classified as a homicide Wednesday by the New Orleans coroner.
Coroner Jeffrey Rouse made the announcement in the case of Henry Glover, whose body was burned by one police officer after another officer shot him on Sept. 2, 2005. In a news release, Rouse said the classification — one his predecessor had declined to make — was based on a review of all available evidence and a review of court transcripts.
"This action today reflects my medical opinion, based upon the totality of the evidence, that the death of Henry Glover was due to the actions of another person," Rouse said.
The immediate legal implications were unclear. Officer David Warren was acquitted by a federal jury after saying he believed Glover was armed when he fired at him.
Glover's family has long been calling for state charges in the case. The New Orleans district attorney's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Gregory McRae, a former officer convicted for burning Glover's body, is serving a 17-year federal sentence.
The classification has no effect on Warren's federal acquittal, said Richard Simmons, one of the lawyers who defended Warren, who is no longer a police officer. He said state authorities should accept the verdict of the federal jury.
Glover was shot outside a strip mall being guarded by police four days after levee failures during Hurricane Katrina led to catastrophic flooding, covering 80 percent of the city in water, knocking out all utilities and leaving tens of thousands stranded — some in their homes, some on rooftops amid the flooding, and many in the Superdome and the New Orleans convention center. Looting was widespread.
Initially convicted on a federal manslaughter charge, Warren won a new trial when an appeals court said he should have been tried separately from four other former officers charged in the cover-up of Glover's death. Another officer, convicted of writing a false report on the incident, had his conviction thrown out after new evidence surfaced. Two other officers were acquitted.
"Because there is no newly discovered evidence, it is fundamentally unfair, if not a violation of the principal of double jeopardy, to commence a third trial of Mr. Warren," Simmons said.
McRae is seeking a new trial in the burning of the body and his case is tentatively set for a federal appeals court hearing the week of June 1. His attorney has argued that McRae was sleep-deprived and mentally unsound when he set fire to a car with Glover's body in it, and that McRae did not know at the time that Glover was the victim of a police shooting.
Glover's family members were upset with Warren's acquittal. They have pushed for state charges in the case and expressed dissatisfaction last year when former coroner Frank Minyard declined to classify the death as a homicide, although such a classification would not necessarily lead to criminal charges. Before leaving office last year, Minyard left the death classification as "undetermined" and said there was no new scientific evidence that warranted classifying the case.
The Glover case and other deadly police shootings in the days after Katrina further sullied the reputation of a New Orleans Police Department beleaguered by years of on-again-off-again scandal.
After Mayor Mitch Landrieu took office in 2010, he invited U.S. Justice Department scrutiny. The city eventually signed a federal court-backed agreement with the Justice Department to introduce a multitude of policy changes.