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tv   Frontline  PBS  November 16, 2010 10:00pm-11:00pm PST

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>> frontline is made possible by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. and by the corporation for public broadcasting. major funding is provided by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation. committed to building a more world. and by reva and david logan. committed to investigative journalism as the guardian of the public interest. additional funding is provided by the park foundation. committed to raising public awareness. and by the frontline journalism
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fund. with grants from the hagler family, and scott nathan and laura debonis. >> tonight on frontline, an exclusive investigation. in the chaotic days after hurricane katrina... >> people were shot and killed by the new orleans police department. >> ...eleven civilians were shot by new orleans police officers... >> looting and other lawlessness will not be tolerated. >> ...as rumors circulated about a declaration of martial law. >> i've already called for martial law in the city of new orleans. >> i heard rumors that martial law was in place, and then i heard rumors that no, it was not. >> i never declared martial law. >> did the police believe they could suspend their own rules? >> does he expect us to, rank and file, go through the streets, you know, shooting looters? >> new evidence shows that an order was given authorizing
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officers to shoot looters. >> one of the most troubled police departments in the history of north america. the nopd reverts back to what the existing culture has always been. >> that's the guy? >> that's the one that beat me. >> tonight, the story of one of those killings... >> what happened here wound up setting this chain of events in motion that has turned the new orleans police department upside down. >> ...and questions about a cover-up. >> bodies just don't burn up like that. >> the way it was destroyed was telling a story. this was a premeditated homicide. >> propublica reporter a.c. thompson, the times- picayune, and frontline investigate: "law and disorder in new orleans."
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>> narrator: these are the pictures we all remember. the storm of a century. the flooding that submerged a city. the dispossessed. and the chaos. >> hey! stop! drop here! >> is it running right now? >> yeah, it's running. >> narrator: but there were some images that few people saw. this video was taken by this man, istvan balogh, a former law enforcement officer who had come from out of state to assist after the storm. >> i mean, can you believe this? this is, uh, the ninth of
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september. >> we were on a routine foot patrol. i'm looking down towards the riverbank. just to see if i see anything unusual. and i observed a white vehicle. we found this completely burnt out vehicle. i yelled up to my partner, i go, "you won't believe what's in here. there's a dead body. there's a... looks like a femur right here. i observed the skull. and from here you can... there's a skull. i observed what looked like a bullet wound. looks like it was shot from the side. there's no question in my mind. this is a pre-meditated homicide. absolutely amazing. this body is disintegrated. i mean, that was a hot fire. this is the whole body right here. the magnitude of the way it was destroyed. it was telling a story-- i don't want no one ever to find out
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what i did. >> narrator: it was two years after balogh's discovery when a reporter first came across the story of the burnt remains. propublica's a.c. thompson, then a freelance crime reporter, had come to new orleans to investigate suspicious deaths in the wake of katrina. with the support of the nation institute, he'd sued to see the public records. >> i'd gotten a hold of over 807 autopsies of people who had died in the days after the storm. most katrina victims had drowned, but one autopsy report described a badly burned body. and there was something else that i found odd: there was no cause of death. the line where homicide or accident could have been written was blank.vnoo[mpóm the other information the autopsy told me was that the remains belonged to a 31 year- old-man named henry glover.
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i found out that glover had lived in the algiers neighborhood of new orleans on the west bank of the through katrina along with his mother, brother and sister. the last time his sister saw henry was september 2, four days after the storm. >> september 2, we was at home. my brother and another friend said that they was going out to get some help and, you know, get some water and some food and stuff. and... and he never made it back. >> henry had come here to this strip mall with his friend, bernard. his brother, edward, was nearby at his own home that morning. >> i was home feeding my family and i can hear somebody hollering from a distance. my nickname is dirty red. "dirty, dirty. somebody shot your brother." i said, "hold up. hold up.
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you sure it's henry?" he said, "yeah." so he run... i run out the house to where he was at. >> both edward and patrice ran to find henry here about 50 yards down the street from the strip mall; he was bleeding from the chest. >> i saw my brother laying down there and he was on his stomach. i said, "brother, hold on. i'll get you some help." >> that's when edward flagged down a passing car. the stranger slowed, then stopped. his name is will tanner. >> henry glover was in the middle of the street and his brother edward was standing over him and he's talking about how he needed medical attention for his brother. so i got out the car, touched his neck and see he still had a pulse. >> tanner reaching down feeling saying, "he have a pulse, he have a pulse." so i grabbed him and we fell back into the car like this.
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>> my mission is to get him to the hospital or somebody who can help him. >> but will tanner thought the hospital was too far. he didn't think glover would make it. instead, tanner drove a mile to habans elementary school. >> i knew at habans school, they have medical attention. police was camped out there. >> in the days after katrina, the nopd swat team had turned this school into an armed encampment. >> can i have everybody's attention? i'm going to go ahead and do the mission briefing for the night. >> these scenes were filmed for a frontline program called "the storm." >> for tonight, our mission is to proactively patrol the fourth district. >> it's here that members of this unit would gather for their daily orders, often assigned to go on looter patrol. >> our purpose for this patrol tonight is going to be to deter crime and looting patrol, all right. anything out of the ordinary, go ahead and challenge it. >> when we got there, i thought that they was going to help us.
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but the first thing they did was put us in handcuffs. and i'm like, "why? we're coming for help." so i made the statement because you all... i said, "you all not helping my brother." whoever killed him, i'm gonna kill them," out of anger, you know, for my brother. i'm seeing my brother in that, you know, that way. so that's what i said and that's when the beating came. man, they beat me, they beat me. i ain't never been beat like that in my life. when he first hit me, i faked like i was knocked out. so he said, "get up. get up, you piece of shit." so he grabbed me right here and he... his fingers almost touched. i liked to blacked out and he let me go just in time. >> they hit me. cked me in the ribs twice. hit me with an m-16 rifle upside my face. and henry glover is still in the car bleeding. and no one didn't check on him at all.
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that was the cruelest thing a person can do to a man-- let him bleed to death in the car like that. and show no, you know, no reaction to try to help him. >> they let him sit in that car too long. the last time i saw my brother is when they took me out of that car and put them handcuffs behind me. that's the last time i saw him. >> edward says he and will tanner were still in handcuffs when one of the police officers drove off in tanner's car. with henry glover still in the backseat. it's been five years since henry glover died. edward is still haunted by the experience. >> i tried to figure it out. i used to come out here and just sit and try to redo the whole thing, and i just can't... i just can't figure it out. i really can't. >> i wasn't gonna do this, but since we... that's the guy? >> that's the one that beat me. >> you sure? >> i'm positive.
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he beat me good. i mean, i grew up in the neighborhood project, i mean, fighting three, four times a day. but i never got beat how this man beat me with my hands behind my back, kicking me in my face, spitting in my face whenever he feab6sei >> it's been five years. you're sure this is the dude? >> i'm positive. i'll put my life on the line that's the one beat me. i would never forget his face. >> narrator: the officer edward king fingered was lieutenant dwayne scheuermann, then second in command of the nopd swat team.i within the ranks of the police department, scheuermann's status 3 cop; courageous and fearless.m that was certainly the reputation he had earned in the first days after katri lt. scheuermann was interviewed by frontline at habans school.# >> when the storm hit early monday morning, we actually watched it from the arena. we're watching the pieces of the
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dome's roof come off. and we started getting reports that there were already both police officers and citizens in trouble as far as high water is concerned. >> narrator: at that time, scheuermann was considered a hero for his part in rescuing stranded flood victims. >> myself and my brother took our personal fishing boats. there was people in their attics. they had punched the windows out of the attic. and they were screaming to us to come get them. >> he was relentless. look at his face, his eyes, you see the sheer determination but you can also see the fatigue. police officers in the first week, they were basically working 24/7. just being in a constant sense of survival. it took a toll, it took a toll. it was rough. >> narrator: hurricane katrina had hit the new orleans police department hard. >> katrina hit on august 29, sometime mid-day on august 30,
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we lost complete communications. >> narrator: warren riley was second in command of the nopd at the time of the storm. >> we were unprepared. the city was covered by water. we had no power, no lights. our radio system went down, our backup system failed. and we lost complete command and control of the police department. >> we were dealing with a police force that was completely inundated with lack of resources. and it was clear that we were having some civil societal breakdown. >> tension mixed with temptation on tuesday as those trapped in a city of rising water took survival into their own hands. >> narrator: quickly news reports were saturated with a lasting image of katrina-- the looter. >> looting in new orleans. shots have been fired. >> downtown new orleans became a looter's free-for-all. >> they represent a frightening breakdown of law and order. >> narrator: but early media
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reports were exaggerated. >> there was chaos on canal street for a period of time. that was a fact. but rumors were all over the place. >> with gangs of men armed with stolen weapons roaming the streets and firing at police. there may be shoot-outs soon enough. >> narrator: stories now known to be untrue were told by the highest-ranking nopd officers. >> the sniper started shooting at my swat team off of fire trucks. then they started shooting at me in the helicopter. >> narrator: and then repeated across the news. >> how do you explain snipers firing on a medevac helicopters trying to get the sick to safety? >> rumors were running amok. and i shouldn't have, basically, given it any credibility by repeating what was told to me. if i had to do it all over again, i wouldn't. >> we had a very tenuous situation all throughout the city. and from that came rumors and innuendo that unfortunately some officials repeated as fact. >> you getting ready to see
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something that i'm not sure you're ready to see. there are people standing out there. have been in that frickin' superdome for five days. watching dead bodies; watching hooligans killing people; raping people. >> there's not one iota of evidence to show that anyone was killed or raped in the dome. but you have to realize we were hearing these rumors and we were believing these things as well, initially. >> narrator: on august 30, deputy chief riley met with mayor nagin and passed on another unconfirmed report. >> i heard an officer request on the radio, he said, "i need more ammo. we need more ammo." imagine. that's what you hear in the movies, that's what you see in a war movie. you don't hear that in urban policing where you're out of ammo. >> that's when the mayor says let's stop search and rescue and bring our force back to controlling the streets. let's stop the looting; let's stop the lawlessness and let's put our police officers on the streets.
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riley says, "we will do that." and the mayor said, "let's stop this crap now." >> i remember, we were down by harrah's casino. and deputy chief riley walked up in a pair of blue jeans, his uniform shirt and a ball cap, and really just starting giving a pep speech, you know, kind of a morale-booster, saying that we were not going to allow the looters to take the city, we were going to more or less protect the borders of it and march through downtown and take the city back. >> did you ever say, "it's time, we got to take our city back?" >> i may have said we need to take control of the city, that may have happened. >> and do you think you ever, did you ever say anything like "looters, it's time to, you know, it's time to do things like shoot to kill?" >> no... >> or... >> you're mixing me up with someone else. i didn't say anything like that.
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>> who said that? >> i didn't say that. i heard rumors that someone else said that. but i certainly didn't say that, no. >> it was a very broad order. what exactly did he mean, you know? does he expect us to rank and file, go through the streets, you know, shooting looters or how do you take back a city? >> just sending out a general order, general statement about take back the city with no specific guidelines is an invitation to disaster. >> narrator: sam walker is a professor of criminal justice and an expert on the legal standards for when police can use their guns. >> the standards on deadly force are fairly clear. an officer can use deadly force where there is a threat to someone's life, or that this person is armed and fleeing and likely to commit another armed offense. that's a very narrow range. >> narrator: but in post-katrina
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new orleans, nothing was clear. could stealing food, water or a tv now mean a death sentence? >> a shoot to kill order, to shoot looters, would violate the long-established standards on use of deadly force. >> narrator: orders to the nopd rank and file became even more uncertain when mayor nagin called for martial law. it was the day after the storm and he had just been told by his chief of police that a police officer had been shot in the head. this story, we now know, was true. >> our police, at that point, were completely focused on search and rescue. and here they were being shot at. and it made the mayor furious. and that's when he said, we need to declare martial law. >> the city they nicknamed the big easy, still a disaster zone, under martial law. >> tonight, in a rare move. practically unheard of in the united states-- martial law declared.
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>> would you request martial law? >> i've already called for martial law in the city of new orleans. >> narrator: in fact, martial law was never declared in new orleans. >> narrator: ray nagin declined to be interviewed for this program, but his deputy chief of police, warren riley, said there was confusion. >> i heard rumors that martial law was in place, and then i heard rumors that, no, it was not given. >> i never declared martial law. i know that it's not legal to do that. but what we were doing was strengthening the appearance of a lawful environment. that's when i called in members of the guard who knew policing, and i asked them to come in and to show force. we needed to make a very dramatic statement, to calm the media down and to calm the citizenry down.
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there are hundreds of law enforcement officers being deployed into new orleans today to restore order. looting and other lawlessness will not be tolerated. i wanted it to be strong and i wanted it to be clear. these troops know how to shoot and kill and they are more than willing to do so, if necessary, and i expect they will. >> narrator: the mixture of rumors and official orders had an impact at police stations around the city. five current and former ranking officers have told frontline, propublica, and the times- picayune, on condition of anonymity, that they believed they had been given authority to shoot looters. they said they did not pass the order on. however at one station, a police officer's home videotape captured first district captain james scott telling officers quote, "we have authority, by martial law, to shoot looters."
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captain scott initially told us he didn't recall the incident and declined to comment. scott has since hired an attorney who told frontline that the rest of the tape puts the statement in context, but he refused to show it to us. had the rules on the use of deadly force changed? other officers said orders spread from cop to cop. "do what you gotta do. anything goes. take the city back." >> as i was reporting on henry glover, i found evidence of other troubling incidents involving the police in the days after the storm.
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the first of them happened here on this overpass on september 1. just like the glover story, this one involved the swat team that was camped out at habans school. captain jeff winn and his lieutenant, dwayne scheuermann, were told that someone had hijacked a water truck. the story they heard was that thieves were robbing, raping and killing people. winn and scheuermann rolled out through the flooded streets. and near the superdome, they spotted three water trucks. they said a man near one of the trucks had a gun. both officers took aim. these pictures show dwayne scheuermann at the scene. ( gunshots ) they hit the man in the torso-- but he survived. his name was keenon mccann. and when the cops apprehended him there was no gun to be
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found. the police theorized he might have thrown it away-- off the overpass. keenon mccann was lucky that day. he survived getting shot. he's since died, but his brother and sister-in-law were with him on the bridge. they say he didn't have a gun. that he was stranded there with his family. what do you think happened? >> what i think happened, that i think they just came out there and got the wrong people, or the wrong person. mistakenly shot keenon for nothing. that's what happened. if he had a gun, why did they bring him in baton rouge to the hospital? brought him there, un-handcuffed, he stayed there for a minute, and then they cut him loose, and let him go free. the system don't work like that. >> narrator: the local prosecutor never brought any charges against keenon mccann. mccann was the first of at least
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10 questionable shootings of civilians by police in the week after katrina. >> they beat me, they beat me. i ain't never got beat like that in my life. >> narrator: it was the very next day that edward and will tanner say they were beaten by police as henry glover bled in the back seat of tanner's car. >> and what was he wearing at the time? >> he had the tactical pants. >> like the dark army kind of uniform? >> the blue, like a bluish black. >> narrator: back across the river that night, there was another shooting-- this one at the new orleans convention center. danny brumfield was shot in the back by an nopd officer. the next day, a 41-year-old drifter named matthew mcdonald was killed by the police at this intersection near the french quarter-- also by a single gunshot to the back. and finally, there was the incident at danziger bridge, which has become the most well
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known of the shootings by police after katrina. at the time, the danziger incident seemed to be a victory for the police in their fight against lawlessness. it was september 4, when word went out over the radio that officers were under fire near the bridge. >> the radio just came alive with people screaming, gunshots in the background. ( gunshots ) >> we could hear a running gun battle. we could hear officers calling for assistance. we could hear officers saying perpetrator down. ( gunshots ) >> it sounded like world war three was going on. >> narrator: by the time gunfire stopped, six people had been shot by the police. >> the general consensus was good guys, one, bad guys, zero. >> when we found situations where the police actually won, you did a little cha-ching because finally they didn't get us. we got them.
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if indeed people had been shooting at police officers, then so be it if our police officers shot them to stop them. of course, that was not the case we now know. >> it would take years for the truth to be revealed about what actually happened on danziger bridge. but in 2008, i was still on the hunt for what had happened to henry glover. his brother edward had last seen him bleeding in the back seat of will tanner's car. the car was then driven off by a police officer and was followed by another vehicle allegedly driven by dwayne scheuermann. tanner's car ended up here, just a mile away, on the levee. >> take a video of me next to it. >> one week later, istvan, the guy with video camera, found the burned car and remains. >> i'm looking back towards that transformer.
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it was about this distance. >> at the time, he says no one seemed to care. now you were talking to law enforcement folks on a regular basis. did you bring this up with them? >> oh, absolutely. told, you know, the federal authorities, told the military, told nopd, told the state police. everybody knew that there was a body down there, but there wasn't no concern. >> the remains stayed on the levee another week before finally being taken to the coroner. >> what we got was a body bag full of bones. >> frank minyard is the coroner for new orleans. >> cause of death, we don't know. i would guess it would be fire. but you know, what happened? was he shot? was he hit on the head? did he shoot himself? did he catch himself on fire?
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all of those kind of things, we can't say. there's nothing on the body bag that identifies where it came from. there's no tags saying how it got there. we never knew the body... that those bones came out of a car. >> but forensic pathologist kevin whaley remembers it differently. whaley came down from new york to help with autopsies after katrina. he examined glover's remains. >> we took the shoulder girdle out. >> he says minyard's own people told him where the remains had come from. >> i was told it was found in a burnt out car, and this set of remains was in it. and for a forensic pathologist, i mean, that should be enough. if all you have is a burnt out car and remains with this degree of disruption and charring, that's suspicious. typically, the car fires we see, all the organs are fine, almost pristine. you can do a full autopsy just like you would anybody else. this state of all that being gone-- well, that's just really out of the ordinary.
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that's like roswell, new mexico, out of the ordinary kind of stuff there. >> there's a dead body... >> whaley had never seen the video of glover's remains until i showed him. it gave him new reason for suspicion. >> i mean, there's definitely a skull here. most of the neck is there at the base of the skull. >> by the time the remains had gotten to him, glover's skull was gone. >> there's most of a skull there. >> we don't know why the skull went missing, but it's possible that somebody got rid of the skull to make it harder to identify this guy. >> sure, or if there's injuries in the skull that you didn't want someone to see. i mean, there's... there'd be a whole lot of reasons. or it could just have been misplaced, but that would be... that in and of itself is sort of suspicious. you don't just misplace a skull. and from here, you... there's a skull... >> all that together is just highly suspicious for foul play, for a homicide. >> but coroner frank minyard never classified the death.
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he left that line on glover's autopsy blank. >> a forensic pathologist named kevin whaley from virginia... >> minyard spoke to frontline reporter lowell bergman. >> he said, "my first reaction was that it was a homicide. when i heard he was found in a burned-out car, i thought that was a classic homicide scenario. you kill someone and burn the body to get rid of the evidence." and i think he said he found metal fragments when they x-rayed the bags. >> they did have... one of the bones did have some metal fragments, which you... which you will find when a body is burned in a car. you will find some metal fragments, correct. i really can't talk anymore about this because it's a case that's active now. and as far as anything else that we might have or bring up, we have to save that for the proper time. so you understand, i cannot comment on what he just said.
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>> at the time, in 2005, minyard's blank line meant case closed. the nopd told me they never did their own investigation into the remains, and knew nothing else about henry glover. but in my own investigation, i got a break-- a source came to me with information about what had happened to henry glover. and the source had photographs. the pictures show the whole crime scene, and clearly show the skull that never made it to the coroner. and my source told me something else-- the photos were taken by the nopd, by officers at the fourth district station. it turns out that the spot on the levee where the car and henry's body had been torched is barely a block away from that station. henry's mother edna didn't know that the burnt car was still just a block away when she came to this station trying to get
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police attention. it was two and a half months after the car had been burned. edna glover still didn't know exactly what had happened to her son, but she told the police an alarming story-- how her son had been shot; how her other son, edward, had taken henry to a police compound at habans school for help, and instead had been beaten by police; and how police officers had taken the vehicle with her son in it. the police recorded her story as a missing persons report and filed it away. >> they told my mother that they were going to get back with her. they were going to come out to her house and talk to her, but no one did. no one called us back. we didn't get any answers. >> father, we come now, lord, asking you that you would keep this sister, this mother, lord. >> it would be another eight months before henry's remains were finally identified through dna evidence and returned to the family for burial.
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>> there's one has not come home, nor is he above ground. >> i didn't know that they burnt him. my mother told me this, like, a day before the funeral. so i'm thinking i'm going to kiss him and say good-bye. >> thank you, lord and master, for bringing that situation to an end. amen. amen. >> narrator: for the next year, the trail on henry glover went cold. in the fall of 2009, frontline and propublica teamed up with the new orleans times-picayune to expand the investigation. two crime reporters there had been breaking stories about the danziger bridge shootings, which had attracted the attention of
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federal investigators. four people wounded, two dead-- was it a justified shooting? >> officers say there was an exchange of gunfire on the bridge. the surviving people say that they never fired any guns or had any guns. >> narrator: publicly, the men under investigation had the full support of their fellow officers. >> a lot of police officers think that these aren't fair investigations. if they did something that, in retrospect, seems inappropriate, they were just trying to deal with... with the hand they'd been dealt. >> narrator: danziger was the big story. but the times-picayune reporters had also been looking into the glover case. they had a simple question: who shot henry glover? >> there was all these different stories running around, and when i talked to henry glover's former girlfriend-- who had henry glover, jr., who is now 13-- she heard a story about another family member shooting him.
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i mean, these were all crazy allegations. >> i had my own theory about what had happened that day at the strip mall. i thought maybe a storeowner had shot him to protect his property. but really, there was only one person who could tell me what happened, henry's friend bernard calloway, who was with henry that day at the mall. bernard would never agree to go on camera, but early in 2010, he finally talked to me by phone. what bernard said was henry was stealing something. henry was picking up goods that had been stolen from this shopping center, and they were in a piece of luggage right here. and that a relative wanted him to pick up these stolen goods that were, like, candles and pots and pans. and bernard and henry came up here in a white pickup truck, and they parked it right here. they get out to pick up this
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stolen stuff and bernard says, "i hear 'leave now' and a shot." he couldn't see the person's face, but he decided that it was a police officer that had done the shooting. by the guy's actions, the shot, the "leave now," and his voice, he thought it was a police officer. he said, "i knew it was a cop. it was right near the police station." it turned out that bernard was right about the police station. up here on the second floor of the mall-- what's now a tattoo parlor and hair salon-- was, in fact, a police substation at the time of katrina. you can still see the faded police decals. the nopd denied any reports of a police shooting that day. but my colleagues at the times- picayune found that wasn't true. the evidence? a police report of the incident that had been buried for more than four years. it said there had been a
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shooting that day, and it involved a 42-year-old rookie cop named david warren. on september 2, 2005-- the day henry glover was shot-- warren was on duty at the strip mall police substation. the report gave his version of events. he said in the police report, he came out of this office because he heard a ruckus. he heard a truck being driven really kind of fast and erratically. he thought these men in the truck were menacing him. he was scared for his life, so he opened fire. my sense would be that officer warren is coming over here, he's coming this a way, looking down and firing. he says he doesn't know if he hit anybody, he doesn't know if anybody was injured. it's a short distance. if you are from here to there, i think it would be hard not to know whether you hit the person
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or not. it's pretty clean line of sight right down there. henry had been shot, bernard told me, right next to the truck. and where you think the truck was? >> no, the truck was... excuse me, the truck was over here. the truck was... the truck was here. >> edward's memory of what he saw that day made warren's account even more confounding. >> the truck was here. >> the truck was right here? >> the truck was here, parked this way. >> so the truck was right here. >> the truck was parked here, this way. >> so, if the truck is parked right here, and the guy is up there, you're probably going to see if you shot someone who's standing right here. >> you could. >> see, i thought he was further out that way. >> no, he was here. >> after henry glover was shot, he stumbled about 50 yards down the street. that's where will tanner picked him up, and then raced to habans elementary school where tanner thought they would give glover
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medical attention. i mean, when you picked him up, did you think he had a chance of living? >> yeah, he had a chance. he still was talking. and, you know, he still was breathing. so i thought maybe i'll get him some medical attention, he might be able to, you know, point the person out who shot him. these guys, boys in blue, are supposed to help out, you know. all a sudden, i seen a different boys in blue. >> so, if you'd known he'd been shot by a police officer, you wouldn't have brought him here, probably. >> no, i wouldn't have brought him here, because i knew if i'd brought him here, i wouldn't stand a snowball's chance if i knew he got shot by a cop. >> the men say they were handcuffed and beaten until finally a female officer intervened. >> a lady come out. she recognized tanner. she said, "i know him. i know him. what did he do?" he said, one of the guys said, "oh, those niggers over there are looting." i said, "looting?" >> they thought that we was looters and everything like that.
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when they searched my car, they didn't find nothing new or nothing like that. but they was curious. >> narrator: what do the police at the elementary school say happened there that day? because of the federal investigation, they wouldn't speak to us for this program. the only account is this unfinished police report that times-picayune reporter laura maggi uncovered. in it, police officers say that, when the car drove into the school, it was being driven erratically and being chased by police cars. it says the man in the backseat was already dead, and that the other men refused to cooperate with police. they say they handcuffed the men, but say nothing of any beating. the account says nothing about burning the car or the body, but it does say they drove the car to the levee behind the fourth district police station. they say they were securing the body until it could be brought to a makeshift morgue for an autopsy.
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>> the question is, if they indeed did want to secure the body that why they didn't subsequently come back and write a report and say, "hey, we have this shot person and maybe this person's a... a crime victim. we should find something out about that." >> narrator: it turns out that the author of the unfinished glover report had also signed off on the police account of the incident at danziger bridge, a report that federal prosecutors now say was largely fabricated. >> today, six new orleans police officers... >> narrator: in july, six nopd officers were indicted in the danziger bridge case. >> ...resulting from the federal criminal investigations... >> narrator: in its investigation, the fbi reconstructed what the police at the scene say happened that day. the incident began when a group
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of nopd officers commandeered a budget rental truck to respond to a distress call on the bridge. they say they heard on the radio that officers were under fire. one officer says he fired warning shots out of the truck's window. almost immediately, the other officers poured out of the truck, guns firing. but federal prosecutors now say there's no evidence the police were under threat. in fact, the police were firing on unarmed civilians, katrina survivors searching for food and medicine. nopd officers killed two people and wounded four that day. ronald madison, a 40-year-old mentally disabled man, was shot in the back, and then repeatedly kicked as he was dying. jose holmes was 19 at the time.
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he doesn't know how many times he was shot. >> i just felt pain rush to my arm. horrible. like world war ii or something. and then, it was for a long time, i thought it wasn't going to stop. i thought it was the end so, i just... i didn't know what to think. >> narrator: jose was lucky to survive. his 17-year-old friend, james brisette, died next to him. despite the brutality, police defenders say it was a confusing time in post-katrina new orleans. >> people want to look at what an officer did based on normal times. believe me, you know, during the katrina days, we weren't living in the real world; we were living in a holocaust. we were living in a situation that no other police department ever had to endure. >> we do have to understand what
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happened here, and we have to understand the pressures that were on this department. we have to understand the chaos that existed internally and externally, and we have to understand all the conditions that led up to this. >> narrator: mary howell is a long-time new orleans civil rights attorney. she's representing lance madison, who was among those on the bridge that day. >> what police always say is, in times of crisis, that's when your training's supposed to kick in, that's when this stuff is supposed to be so ingrained in you that you don't even have to think about it, because that's your default. so you have to ask why do some people have that default and act appropriately and conduct themselves professionally, even without, you know, all the apparatus around them, and why did some lose their bearings? and then, that raises the question-- well, were they losing their bearings, or had this been their default all along? >> fbi agents had kept a close eye on fifth district officer len davis. >> narrator: the history of scandal in the new orleans
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police department goes back many decades before katrina. >> they'd hoped to have snared as many as 25 bad cops. they netted nine suspects. >> narrator: a noxious combination of corruption and brutality that peaked in the 1990s. >> we had police officers doing bank robberies. we had police officers involved in arson, rape, kidnapping. we used to say that people in new orleans were more afraid of the police than they were the criminals, and it was hard to tell the difference. >> i know police officers that killed people. i know police officers that robbed people, ripped off drug dealers. i mean, it goes on and on. >> narrator: mike thames was an nopd officer in the '80s and '90s before being arrested himself for bank robbery. >> a couple of times, i was investigated. but 99% of the time, i was told... they'll warn you, like, "hey, mike, you're being watched for this," or "hey, mike, they're going to call you in for this, so get your story straight." >> narrator: the culture of lawlessness ran so deep that historic divisions of race seemed forgotten.
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it wasn't black or white; it was blue. >> some black officers look at themselves more as blue than black. you adopt the culture of a police officer as opposed to "i'm a black cop" or "i'm a white cop." "no, i'm just a cop." >> narrator: but in 1994, new orleans got a new police chief, richard pennington, brought in from washington, d.c., with new ideas. >> most citizens are afraid. that's why they don't call us. because they feel if they call us, we're not going to do anything to protect them. >> pennington comes in as an outsider. fired police officers, instituted integrity checks. he just professionalized the police department. he brings it into the 20th century. >> narrator: the pennington era didn't last. in 2002, pennington ran for mayor, without support of the police, and lost to ray nagin. >> nagin gets in office and he chooses to appoint a good street cop, eddie compass, as chief of police.
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>> chief pennington did an outstanding job as it relates to getting the police department in the right direction. i tried to continue that in vein. >> and so the... the discipline, the internal affairs reviews, that kind of stuff that chief pennington set up... >> we kept those things in place. >> narrator: but under compass, investigations of complaints against officers dropped dramatically. >> the threat of officers losing their jobs leaves with pennington. the nopd reverts back to what it knows. it reverts back to what's comfortable, what's convenient, and to what the existing culture has always been. >> almost immediately, you saw, discipline stopped, accountability stopped. by the time we came to katrina, this department was, i would say, in as bad a shape as we had been in 1994. and that storm stripped bare any pretense that there was any structure, any accountability,
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any of the... the skeleton that you would expect of an organization like a police department. it all vanished. "the courts are gone, the jails are gone. it's up to us. and we're going to, 'do what we have to do and move on'." >> narrator: according to officers who have pled guilty in the danziger bridge case, a cover-up of the killings began almost immediately. >> a lieutenant told the officers involved in the shooting to get their stories straight. there were secret meetings held. one man is accused of getting a gun from his house and filing it into the court record as being a gun that was used by civilians on the bridge that day. >> narrator: a court document called a bill of information says the planted gun was referred to by the detective as a "ham sandwich."
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>> every cop that i knew carried a ham sandwich. a ham sandwich is a... a clean gun that they would take and put it in like an old pair of jeans or britches or whatever you want to call it. and they'd let it sit there and get some lint on it. then after they let it sit in there, then you put it in a plastic bag. i carried mine with me wherever i went. some people don't carry it with them. >> so you'd have it under the seat of your car or something? >> no, i had a briefcase. i carried it in my briefcase. >> so you carried around a gun to plant on suspects? >> yeah, of course. >> some former officers we've talked to have said, "hey, this was an underground culture." they would carry around something they called a "ham sandwich," and they would plant that "ham sandwich" at the scene of officer-involved shootings. did you ever hear anything about that? >> nope. that's not on my radar. nothing about that. like i said, that investigation was done under chief riley's watch. >> i mean, over time... i mean, this was handed down.
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>> as i'm telling you, i mean, you know, i don't really recall ever having those type of conversations. i'm telling you straight up. >> when was the first time you ever heard the term "ham sandwich?" >> in that bill of information. >> you never heard of a "ham sandwich" before then? >> never heard. within nopd, you have several different cultures as well. and that was a culture i was not a part of. i had never heard that before. >> a short while ago, a federal grand jury returned an 11-count indictment charging five individuals... >> narrator: federal indictments in the henry glover case were handed up in june. >> ... former nopd officers, three current nopd officers with... >> narrator: it had been over two years since reporter a.c. thompson came across the story of henry glover's burnt body. at the end of 2008, he published the first of many articles.
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>> your article that identified the shooting death and the burning of henry glover acted as... as an incredible catalyst and a lead for us in our investigation. the shooting and killing henry glover... >> narrator: five police officers were charged with 11 federal civil rights violations, each count telling a piece of the story about henry glover's demise. federal prosecutors say officer david warren used an assault rifle to shoot and kill henry glover. he charge is murder. warren refused to comment. prosecutors charged dwayne scheuermann and another officer with using unreasonable force in the beating of edward king and will tanner. scheuermann, who refused to comment on the glover incident, is also charged with setting fire to will tanner's car with henry glover's body in the back seat. and just as in danziger, the
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indictments allege a cover-up. >> in two instances, we've seen at least indicators of a cover- up. how far that goes, i honestly don't know. >> narrator: the indictments charge two officers from the fourth district station. they say the men knew that warren had shot glover; they knew glover had been taken to the habans school; they knew glover's body had been burned on the levee. prosecutors said the police knew all of this from the beginning; they just conspired to keep it hidden. >> how did you feel when, finally, somebody from law enforcement came to you and said, "we want to know what happened that day?" >> ooh, man, that day, this lady come knocking on the door, i said, "oh, lord done answered my prayer." i said, "he done answered my
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prayers." and i said, "thank you, lord." and like i told her, i said i never thought they had people out there who will go after them. but she told me she's going to... she said, "i promise you, you're going to get justice." that's wrong what they did to my brother. that's wrong. my mind is messed up. every time i pass by that school, i get flashbacks. sometimes, i dream about it. i was thinking, after a while, it'd go away. it's not going away. i used to scare my wife waking up on the side of her in deep sweats. i forgive that police officer. i forgive him with all my heart, because if i don't, god ain't going to forgive me when i do something wrong. i forgive him. i forgive him. and i'm trying to deal with this every day. it's hard, man.
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feel like something just is gone, that i had in my heart is gone. i ain't going to get it. i can't see him no more, can't do the things we normally do, you know. i miss my brother. i miss him. >> there's more about this ongoing investigation on our website. watch the report again online, get the latest on the trial of the henry glover shooting, and much more at pbs.org. >> next time on frontline... >> we're giving her every form of support that we can for all
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of her organs. >> one day, we will all face death... >> we can't keep bombing your body, john. we can't. >> ...face whether to keep fighting... >> bomb me. i'd rather be like that than dead. >> ...or to let go. >> if you're tired and you don't want us to do this anymore, it's okay with me. >> how far will you go? >> why give up? what's that going to do? >> "facing death." watch frontline. captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org >> frontline is made possible by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you.
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thank you. and by the corporation for public broadcasting. major funding is provided by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation. committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. and by reva and david logan. committed to investigative journalism as the guardian of the public interest. additional funding is provided by the park foundation. committed to raising public awareness. and by the frontline journalism fund. with grants from the hagler family, and scott nathan and laura debonis. >> you're watching pbs.
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