NEW ORLEANS (CN) – A former police commander who acknowledges he ordered Henry Glover’s body to be stashed behind a levee after Hurricane Katrina claims in court that he did not order the body to be burned, and says the New Orleans Police Department wrongfully fired him and violated his civil rights.
Jeffrey Winn sued the City of New Orleans, its Police Department, and six top cops, including Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas, in Federal Court.
Winn was commander of the Police Department’s Special Operations Division Tactical Unit on Aug. 29, 2005, when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.
Four days after Katrina hit, Henry Glover’s body showed up in a Chevy Malibu at a school in the suburb of Algiers, where a makeshift police station had been set up. Though not stated in the lawsuit, Glover, 31, had been shotby a police officer that morning as he and a friend walked near a strip mall.
Two months later, the car and Glover’s body were found burned behind the levee.
In his 20-page complain, Winn says he gave the order for the body to be moved to behind the levee, but says he had no knowledge that the officers who moved it set the car on fire.
Winn says that when he was subpoenaed to testify in the federal trial, his criminal attorney, Eric Hessler of New Orleans, who also filed this complaint, advised him to take the Fifth Amendment.
Winn says he was fired from the police department for his failure to testify.
Winn says in his complaint that he ordered for Glover’s body and the Chevy to be moved behind the levee because he “recognized the serious health, morale and safety issues posed by the vehicle and deceased remaining in the [police] compound for any undetermined amount of time.”
“In an effort to effectively address the issues faced by plaintiff, he ordered Lt. Scheuermann and Police Officer Greg McRae to relocate the vehicle and the deceased out of the compound and behind the 4th District Police Station and United States Border Patrol Compound. This area would afford a moderate amount of physical security by virtue its location, and also be located in an area (behind the levee) which would be out of the general public’s contact and view,” the complaint states. (Parentheses in complaint.)
In November 2005, Winn says, NOPD Capt. Tami Brissett informed him that she had received a citizen complaint regarding a burned vehicle containing what appeared to be the remains of a human body behind the levee in the Fourth Police District. She told Winn she had informed Public Integrity Bureau Captain Donald Curole of it.
Winn claims that when he heard this he “also contacted Captain Curole and informed him that his unit had placed a car containing a dead body behind the levee. Plaintiff did this because of the reasonable assumption that this may be the same car and deceased that he ordered placed behind the levee. He did not have knowledge of who may have burned the body, nor knowledge of who, when or why the vehicle may have been set on fire.”
Winn’s complaint states that at the time Winn “had no reason to believe or suspect any police involvement or wrongdoing in this incident, but rather suspected some civilian or other passerby set the vehicle on fire.”
Winn says he was not contacted by federal investigators until years later.
“In December of 2008 a series of articles were published which documented serious allegations of criminal misconduct by NOPD officers who were involved in the above described matter. The articles included the identity of the deceased (Henry Glover) and alleged, among other things, that NOPD officers shot Glover, that others covered up this shooting, and still others attempted to dispose of the evidence by burning the vehicle and Glover’s body. In many of these articles, Plaintiff, along with his second in command, Dwayne Scheuermann, were identified as some of the NOPD officers alleged to be involved in this criminal activity,” the complaint states.(Parentheses in complaint.)
After the articles appeared, Scheuermann told Winn “that Officer Greg McRae had in fact burned both the car and body. Scheuermann also told plaintiff that he (Scheuermann) believed that he had previously informed plaintiff of this fact long ago,” as early as September 2005, according to the complaint. (Parentheses in complaint.)
Winn says his attorney advised him that “in order to protect himself from erroneous criminal exposure, he should exercise his constitutional rights, including his right to not be a witness against himself.”
But on May 25, 2011, after undergoing extensive federal and internal investigation, Winn says, he was fired for his failure to bring information about the Henry Glover incident to the police department.
Winn seeks damages for civil rights violations, wrongful discharge and unpaid wages.