NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A former New Orleans police officer testified Monday at his retrial that he thought he saw a gun in the hand of the man he shot and killed outside a strip mall in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath — and still believes he was justified to use deadly force.
David Warren's description of the encounter closely mirrored his testimony at his first trial, which resulted in his conviction and a prison sentence of nearly 26 years. Both times, Warren told jurors he feared for his life when he shot 31-year-old Henry Glover less than a week after the 2005 storm's landfall.
"I took the actions I did because I thought I was going to die," said Warren, one of the retrial's final witnesses. "I thought I wasn't going to be able to see my son turn 3." Justice Department prosecutors, however, have said Glover wasn't armed and didn't pose a threat when Warren shot him in the strip mall's parking lot from a second-floor balcony. Jared Fishman, one of the prosecutors, asked Warren if somebody would have to be "seriously crazy" to charge toward a police officer who is armed with an assault rifle, as Warren claims Glover did.
"It could be crazy. It could be drunk. It could be drugs," Warren said. "I don't know what's in somebody else's mind." U.S. District Judge Lance Africk told jurors they will begin deliberating Tuesday after hearing closing arguments by the attorneys.
Warren was convicted of manslaughter in 2010, but an appeals court overturned his convictions last year and ordered a new trial. A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Warren should have been tried separately from four other former officers who had been charged with participating in a cover-up of Glover's death.
The jury for Warren's retrial has been barred from hearing any testimony about what happened to Glover after a good Samaritan drove the dying man to a makeshift police station. A different officer, Gregory McRae, was convicted in 2010 of burning Glover's body in a car. The 5th Circuit upheld McRae's convictions.
Warren and another officer, Linda Howard, were guarding a police substation at the strip mall on the morning of Sept. 2, 2005, when Glover and another man pulled up in truck with a Firestone logo on it. Warren said the sound of the truck's revving engine startled him because the city was eerily quiet after broken levees flooded most of the city.
"I knew this was a stolen vehicle," Warren recalled. Warren said he screamed, "Police, get back!" twice after Glover and his friend, Bernard Calloway, exited the truck and started to run toward a gate that would have given them access to the building he was guarding.
Calloway, however, testified last week that Glover was standing next to the truck and lighting a cigarette when Warren shot him. Howard testified Glover and Calloway were running in different directions when Warren opened fire.
Warren said he saw an object in Glover's right hand that appeared to be the butt of a pistol and part of a gun barrel. Warren fired one shot at Glover with a personally owned rifle that he had been carrying with him as he patrolled the city after the storm. Warren said he had thought the shot missed Glover, but now concedes he killed him.
"It's a sad thing. It's not a good feeling," Warren said. "It's a tragedy for the family, and I understand that. I'm a father." Fishman showed Warren the rifle he used to shoot Glover from a distance of about 60 feet.
"You looked through this scope?" he asked. "You located your target?" "It was an instantaneous type thing," Warren said. "It was a very quick shot." Fishman pressed Warren to explain when a police officer is authorized to shoot at somebody.
"You can't shoot someone for stealing," Fishman said. "Correct," said Warren, who was a rookie officer at the time of the shooting. Last week, jurors heard testimony from former officer Alec Brown, who said Warren told him shortly after the shooting that he believed looters were "animals" who deserved to be shot. Warren denied saying that.
"That's not how I speak," Warren said, adding that he knew many people desperately needed food and water to survive after the storm. Earlier on the same morning as Glover's shooting, Warren had fired what he called a "warning shot" at a man who had been riding a bike near the mall. Warren said he knew officers aren't allowed to fire warning shots, but was worried the man intended to do "something stupid" because he had circled the mall several times.
"This was Katrina," Warren said. "It was an extraordinary event in terms of the types of issues we were dealing with."