Posted: Nov 19, 2010 9:07 PM by Alison Haynes
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A New Orleans police sergeant testified Friday that she lied to a grand jury when she took responsibility for writing a "fabricated" report that concluded an officer was justified in fatally shooting a man after Hurricane Katrina.
Sgt. Purnella Simmons, a government witness in a trial for five other current or former officers charged in the shooting and alleged cover-up, said her initial report on the 2005 shooting of 31-year-old Henry Glover only included basic facts and didn't pass judgment on the incident.
But she said it was replaced by a fabricated report, which described the chaotic state of the city after Katrina and concluded former officer David Warren was justified in shooting Glover.
Simmons said she told a federal grand jury last year that she wrote the second report because she feared she couldn't prove it wasn't hers.
"My name was on that report," she said. "I couldn't see any way out of that."
Simmons said she hired a lawyer within minutes of her first grand jury appearance, then returned to the grand jury several days later to tell the truth.
Former Lt. Robert Italiano and Lt. Travis McCabe are charged with submitting the doctored report. Warren is charged with shooting Glover. Lt. Dwayne Scheuermann and Officer Greg McRae are charged with burning Glover's body.
Simmons hasn't been charged with any wrongdoing and said prosecutors have assured her she won't be charged.
She is one of several officers to testify at the trial who has admitted lying to the grand jury or FBI agents investigating the case. Sgts. Jeff Sandoz and Ronald Ruiz have said they initially lied about what they saw at a school where Glover's body was driven after the shooting. The three men who took Glover there allegedly were handcuffed and beaten by police.
On the morning of Sept. 2, 2005, Simmons was patrolling the Algiers section of New Orleans when a fellow officer called her to the scene of the shooting, a strip mall containing a police substation.
Linda Howard, the officer who called her, was pacing and appeared upset. Warren was "almost nonchalant," Simmons said.
"He didn't believe that he hit the person," Simmons said.
Howard, however, told Simmons that Warren shot Glover "for nothing."
"She didn't fear for her safety," Simmons added.
Simmons heard a call on the radio that a shooting victim had showed up at Habans Elementary School, which the department's SWAT team was using after the storm. She said she told Italiano and another police official, Capt. David Kirsch, that the wounded man at the school may be the same person Warren shot.
"They said, no, it wasn't the same. It was two separate incidents," Simmons said.
Simmons said Italiano initially told her not to write a report on the shooting. Three months later, however, he changed course and asked her to write one, Simmons said. She interviewed Howard and Warren again. This time, Warren told her he saw a "shiny object" in Glover's hand before he shot him.
"I don't recall him saying that on the scene," Simmons testified.
In her initial report, Simmons included Warren's account of the shooting, but didn't attempt to conclude whether the shooting was justified. Simmons said it wasn't her job to decide that.
Simmons submitted her initial report on Dec. 2, 2005. She said she didn't learn about the second version of the report until 2009. A detective showed it to her on the eve of her first grand jury appearance.
"Words cannot express the anger I felt, the humiliation, the embarrassment," she said, adding that she felt "targeted."
A jury of seven women and five men have heard five days of testimony. One of four alternate jurors, a New Orleans man, has been excused from serving. U.S. District Judge Lance Africk didn't say why the man was excused.
Africk said prosecutors may finish presenting their case by Tuesday. Africk added that he expects an additional five days of testimony by defense witnesses.