Body of Evidence
Carrying a laptop computer, a law enforcement source meets me in a quiet cafe. After ordering a cup of coffee, the source sits down at my table and slips a CD of photos into the computer. A grisly color image appears on the screen: spread across the seat of a burned auto is that human skull surrounded by ashes. These are Glover's remains, as they were found and photographed by cops from the Fourth District, which serves Algiers, this person tells me. The source, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, says the car is Tanner's Chevy, which was discovered on a levee a few hundred yards from the Fourth District station.
NOPD brass chose not to investigate the death at the time, the source says, adding that some police believed Glover was a looter, and that his body was burned up by officers who didn't want to smell the corpse as it decayed in the brutal Louisiana heat. "Have you ever smelled a dead body?" the source asks. "They smell horrible."
Scrolling through the photos, the source studies the damage to the car and notes that it takes an accelerant or an incendiary device to cause such extensive scorching.
In response to my repeated queries about the death of Henry Glover--including two sets of detailed written questions--NOPD spokesman Robert Young offers two sentences via e-mail: "The death of Mr. Glover was investigated by the Orleans Parish Coroner's Office independent of the New Orleans Police Department, who found no evidence to rule the death of Mr. Glover a homicide. Furthermore, the New Orleans Police Department did not receive any information to support or substantiate the information that you received from your sources."
The allegations about Glover's death don't startle Mary Howell, a New Orleans civil rights attorney who's been litigating against the NOPD for more than thirty years. During the 1980s, Howell sued the force over the torture and killing of African-Americans by west bank police, crimes that led to the jailing of three officers, a multimillion-dollar settlement and a significant shake-up in the department. Officers, explains Howell, "would tie people down and put a bag over their heads until they started to suffocate. It was the New Orleans equivalent of waterboarding."
In Howell's view the department remains seriously dysfunctional. "The things that happened with the police department during Katrina were shocking," she says. "They were disturbing. I wish I could say they were aberrant. But they were not. They are what happens when you have a department that is deeply troubled."