NEW ORLEANS — A former New Orleans police officer charged with fatally shooting an unarmed man in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath testified Tuesday that he feared for his life when he fired at a man who appeared to be holding a gun.
David Warren, one of five current or former officers on trial in the death of 31-year-old Henry Glover and burning of his body, said he was guarding a police substation at a strip mall on Sept. 2, 2005, when he saw two men pull up in what appeared to be a stolen truck, and run toward a mall gate that would have provided building access.
"I was concerned for my life. I was concerned for my partner's life. I was concerned about going home to my family," Warren said.
Standing on a second-floor balcony, Warren said, he screamed, "Police, get back!" twice but the men kept running. Warren, who was armed with a personally owned assault rifle, said he fired one shot at a man who appeared to have an object in his right hand.
"You never saw a gun, did you?" Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Magner asked.
"I believed it was a firearm," Warren responded.
Prosecutors say Glover and the other man, Bernard Calloway, weren't armed and never posed a threat to Warren or Officer Linda Howard, his partner that day.
Howard has testified she didn't understand why Warren shot at Glover. Calloway testified Glover was leaning against the truck and lighting a cigarette, with his back facing the strip mall, just before Calloway heard a shot ring out and a man yell, "Leave now!"
Warren said about three seconds elapsed between his command and when he shot at Glover from a distance of roughly 66 feet. Warren said he saw the two men run away and didn't think his shot had hit its mark.
"I think it's clear that I ultimately hit him," he said.
A passing motorist stopped and took Glover, Calloway and Glover's brother to a nearby school that police were using as a temporary headquarters. Instead of helping the men, officers allegedly beat the three men while they were handcuffed and drove off with Glover's body in the back seat of a car and set the car on fire, prosecutors allege.
Lt. Dwayne Scheuermann and Officer Greg McRae are charged in the alleged beatings and with burning Glover's body. Former Lt. Robert Italiano and Lt. Travis McCabe are charged with obstructing the federal probe.
Glover's shooting wasn't the first time Warren discharged his weapon that day. Warren said he fired a warning shot earlier that morning after seeing a man on a bicycle who circled the strip mall several times and kept looking up at him. Warren acknowledged he wasn't allowed to fire warning shots but wanted to scare the man off because he felt threatened.
Warren was the first defense witness to testify after prosecutors rested their case earlier Tuesday. About five days of testimony by defense witnesses were expected before closing arguments.