Louisiana governor to meet Black legislative leaders after new report about investigation of Ronald Greene’s death
By Nick Valencia and Amanda Watts, CNN
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards will meet with the Legislative Black Caucus on Tuesday to discuss recent new allegations in the Ronald Greene case.
Both the governor’s office and the Department of Justice for the Western District of Louisiana are contesting recent reporting by the Associated Press that suggests that the governor kept quiet for two years about what he knew about what really happened during the overnight hours of May 10, 2019, when Greene died.
Greene, a 49-year-old Black man, died in 2019 after what the police described as resisting arrest and a struggle with officers. However, his family said that they were told that Greene died in a car crash after a police chase, CNN has previously reported.
Videos of the incident were not released for two years after Greene’s death. It showed Greene being tased, kicked and punched by Louisiana State Police officers before he died in their custody.
In a statement to CNN, Edwards’ office said, “neither the Governor nor anyone on the Governor’s staff has ever intervened or interfered in any criminal investigation, including the investigation into Mr. Greene’s death.”
Following the meeting with the LLBC on Tuesday, Edwards will address the media, his office said.
Governor’s office disputes reporting
An official from the governor’s office provided to CNN a screenshot that they say demonstrates the governor was not aware of allegations against police until a year after Greene’s death.
Christina Stephens, deputy chief of staff for communications for Edwards, said, “The Governor first learned of the serious allegations against Louisiana State Police surrounding the arrest and death of Mr. Ronald Greene in September 2020. He had previously been notified of the arrest and death of an unnamed individual in May of 2019 by then LSP Superintendent Col. Kevin Reeves.”
Stephens sent CNN a screenshot of the text message with Reeves dated May 10, 2019, at 10 a.m. The text says in part that troopers attempted to stop a speeding vehicle that eventually crashed.
“But, a violent, lengthy struggle took place,” the text said. “The suspect remained combative but became unresponsive shortly before EMS arrived,” adding that the suspect was pronounced dead at the hospital. Nowhere in the text is Ronald Greene named.
Edwards did not see the video of the incident involving Greene until October 2020, Stephens said, and “from the moment the Governor learned of the allegations and saw the videos, he has consistently said that the actions of the officers in the videos were disturbing and unacceptable and that the matter should be fully investigated by federal and state authorities.”
According to the AP, the FBI is also looking into “awareness of various aspects of the case, according to law enforcement officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the probe.”
But the Department of Justice for the Western District of Louisiana said in a statement that is “inaccurate.”
“While the investigation continues, recent reporting citing sources suggesting that the FBI has questioned people about the awareness of certain facts by Governor John Bel Edwards is inaccurate,” the DOJ statement reads.
The DOJ is conducting “an open and ongoing criminal investigation” into the death of Greene.
Videos showed harsh arrest of Greene
It wasn’t until videos of the arrest were released by the AP and then by the LSP in May 2021 — two years after his death — that the graphic details of the struggle were revealed.
Multiple body camera and dash camera videos from four responding officers offer a more detailed account of the 2019 encounter near the city of Monroe, with footage showing parts of the car chase as well as the four-minute sequence between when police open Greene’s car and when he’s handcuffed on the ground.
In the videos, Greene tells officers that he is scared as at least two troopers try to drag him out of the vehicle.
A struggle is seen in the videos as officers attempt to handcuff Greene. A trooper appears to put Greene in a chokehold as they wrestle on the ground, and Greene lies there while another trooper continues to tase him as he’s restrained by the other trooper.
Greene wails as he lies face down on the ground while one trooper sits on top of him, pressing his hand onto the back of Greene’s neck and punching him in the face, the video shows. Another trooper tries to handcuff him and punches his lower back, according to the footage.
The troopers appear to stop beating Greene after they handcuff and leave him on the ground face down. As they walk away, one says, “You stupid motherf****r,” as Greene continues to cry out.
Audio from the body camera of one of the officers, Trooper Chris Hollingsworth, revealed a telephone exchange inside his patrol vehicle after the beating. He begins by saying Greene was drunk.
“And I beat the ever-living f*** out of him, choked him and everything else trying to get him under control and we finally got him in handcuffs when a third man got there and the son of a bitch was still fighting and we was still wrestling with him trying to hold him down because he was spitting blood everywhere,” the officer says in the video.
“And then all of a sudden he just went limp.”
Hollingsworth was to be fired for violations regarding body-worn camera and car camera systems, use of force, performance, lawful orders and for conduct unbecoming an officer, but he died in a car crash before his termination took effect.
Greene’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in May 2020.
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CNN’s Theresa Waldrop, Dave Alsup, Ryan Young, Chris Boyette and Aya Elamroussi contributed to this report.