NEW ORLEANS - The New Orleans Police Department last week closed a 10-month investigation and cleared a veteran sergeant who allegedly failed to report the 2005 police shooting and burning of Henry Glover.
The NOPD internal investigation cleared Sgt. Lesia Mims of any wrongdoing.
The probe found nothing to support the FBI’s own report on the matter, which appeared to implicate Mims, a veteran supervisor in the NOPD’s internal affairs unit, the Public Integrity Bureau. (See report)
Mims’ name never came up in the 2010 federal trial of five former officers charged in the killing and subsequent police cover-up.
In an article last May in The Times-Picayune, I revealed that an FBI investigative report stated that two NOPD officers – Purnella Simmons and Keyalah Bell – told Mims of the shooting and burning shortly after it occurred.
The FBI’s 302 report is based on a March 2010 interview with Mims. It notes that days after Katrina, Simmons and Bell went to a local Walgreens. There, “Simmons and Bell verbally informed Mims that a civilian was shot that and killed by the Firestone, located in the fourth (NOPD) district.”
The report also states that Bell, “a short time” later, told Mims that fellow officer David Warren shot a man near the Firestone tire center, and that the man was later found burned in a vehicle near the police station.
Mims allegedly told this to FBI Agent Ashley Johnson, who wrote the FBI report.
Following the article last May, the NOPD reassigned Mims and opened an internal inquiry.
NOPD investigators interviewed Bells, Simmons, Mims and others, including Agent Johnson.
Ulitimately, the NOPD determined that Mims didn’t withhold information, that the FBI report was vague and failed to provide a timeframe on these conversations and Mims’ actions.
"The fact is, the evidence that was relied upon, and what people saw, did not tell the entire story,” said Ray Burkart III, Mims’ attorney. “The problem with the 302 document that is used by the FBI, is it doesn’t give you what is called the temporal element, it doesn’t give you a chronology, it doesn’t document when X happened, when Y happened, when Z happened.:
Mims was apparently told of Glover’s shooting and burning years later, amid the federal investigation and numerous media reports. And that was what she supposedly told the FBI, according to her attorney.
“To anyone who reads this, a layman, i.e. a juror, it looks like this all happened in the same day,” Burkart said. “I don't believe (the FBI report) gives a truly accurate account, and the detail necessary to put someone under the spotlight, to be interrogated.”
David Warren, the officer who shot Glover, was under Mims’ supervision. She told the FBI she never asked, nor heard, about who was responsible for burning Glover’s body, according to the report.
The FBI's spokeswoman declined to comment or answer questions about the matter. Mary Romig Haskins cited the pending retrial, noting that the Glover case is considered active.
The NOPD did not make an official available to talk on camera. The department’s spokeswoman e-mailed a statement from Deputy Chief Arlinda Westbrook.
“If we had concluded that Officer Mims did have knowledge of the Glover incident, we would have disciplined her, as we have done in the case of other officers-many of whom were high ranking officers who were in some cases terminated,” the statement read. “Additionally, if the FBI or US Attorney’s office had determined she had direct knowledge, they would have recommended prosecution.”
In the wake of the federal trial, the NOPD has terminated five officers linked to the Glover case, and four others retired or resigned under investigation, according to police spokeswoman Remi Braden.
Meanwhile, Mims has returned to the NOPD's internal investigative unit, Braden said.
The FBI's 302 reports were an issue December 2010 trial of five former officers. Attorneys for the defendants attacked the veracity of the statements in the report.
Three former officers – David Warren, Greg McRae and Travis McCabe were convicted. Two former lieutenants – Dwayne Schuermann and Robert Italiano – were acquitted.
McCabe’s conviction was later overturned and Warren won a retrial on appeal. Those retrials were scheduled for next month, but have been delayed, with no new date set.
The FBI’s 302 reports will certainly play a role in the retrials.
Officers and the local police associations have criticized the FBI's policy of not audio recording interviews or statements. They allege the practice leaves too much up to the interpretation of the FBI agent writing the report.
"That's kind of the hypocrisy of it,” said Burkart, the police attorney. “When you look at the consent decree, we are being required, our officers are being required, to audiotape, to videotape everything. At the same time, the people who would be enforcing this, who would be the federal government through the federal court system, they don't even do that."