By Virginia Langmaid and Nick Valencia, CNN
A former Louisiana State Police officer, who on body camera video can be heard saying that he “beat the ever-living f**k out of” dead Black motorist Ronald Greene, told investigators during an interview 16 months after the incident that he was “scared” and portrayed himself as a victim, according to audio of the interview obtained by The Associated Press.
In the interview with state trooper Chris Hollingsworth, investigators are skeptical of his account, as they refer to police body camera videos that were later made public and show Hollingsworth and other officers tasing Greene, dragging him out of his car and beating him with a flashlight.
The audio obtained by the AP of what is reportedly a two-hour interview provides the latest details to become public in the investigation. In a story, and edited clips of the audio the AP made public, Hollingsworth reportedly tells investigators, “I was scared. He could have done anything once my hold was broke off him — and that’s why I struck him.”
Greene’s death is under federal investigation and is also being investigated by a committee in the Louisiana House of Representatives.
His family was told by state police that Greene died in a car crash on the night of May 10, 2019. But nine body camera and dash-camera videos released last year by state police told a different story of what happened that night near the city of Monroe.
Hollingsworth was set to be fired for violations of his body-worn camera and car camera systems, use of force, performance, lawful orders and for conduct unbecoming an officer, but he died in a single-vehicle car crash on September 21, 2020, according to the Ouachita Parish Coroner’s Office.
State police would not comment on the latest audio and told CNN they handed over all evidence they gathered to federal investigators. The Louisiana governor’s office and Patrick Scott Wolleson, an attorney for Hollingsworth, did not immediately return a request for comment from CNN. Members of the special legislative committee told CNN that the committee was in the process of subpoenaing the video.
A Department of Justice spokesperson said its investigation is ongoing and they couldn’t comment on ongoing matters.
The AP account of the incident says Greene offered no resistance.
What the new audio clips reveal
In the new audio clips, Hollingsworth can be heard saying, “I wasn’t trying to use deadly force against him, I only wanted to free my arm.”
The investigators interviewing Hollingsworth are skeptical: “According to this video, at least according to us, it doesn’t appear that you ever gave him a chance to get out of the car. You pretty much run up to the window and within a second or two, you tase him. How come?”
Hollingsworth said he “was in fear that he was going to hurt myself” and a colleague. He went on to “I didn’t mean it to be degrading, and, I didn’t know how serious the injuries were.”
Ron Haley, attorney for Greene’s family, told CNN that the family has heard the audio.
“The family has heard the audio through a leak,” Haley said by phone. He said a gag order limits him on what he can say about the case, but added, “I know we cannot rush a federal investigation. But it just seems like the goal line keeps getting pushed back. Now we’re pushing on year three and we still have no indictment.”
Greene’s sister, Dinelle Hardin, told CNN on Thursday that the latest news made her angry.
“It pisses me off to know that we have the video of him stating those words, beating Ron senselessly,” she said. “No one stepped in to stop him and three years later no arrests have been made.”
“It’s ridiculous,” she added.
His mother, Mona Hardin, said that the incident was part of a “coverup.”
“It’s like part of their training is to say that: ‘I’m afraid,’ ‘My life is in danger,’ ‘I have to beat the hell out of him,'” she said. “As we go into our third year, they’re still trying to create the narrative to lessen the charges that will be given.”
What we know about the case
According to a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by Greene’s family, the family was initially told Greene died on impact during the crash. A report from Glenwood Medical Center listed the principal cause of death as cardiac arrest and described an “unspecified injury” to Greene’s head. Postmortem photos published on the NAACP Baton Rouge Facebook page showed large abrasions to Greene’s skull and bruising on his cheeks.
The troopers involved have maintained that Greene’s death “was caused by crash-related blunt force chest trauma that resulted in a fractured sternum and ruptured aorta,” and have maintained they had to use force to restrain him “for their own personal safety and for the safety of the public,” according to court documents.
A report from the Louisiana State Police Criminal Investigations Division’s investigation into Greene’s in-custody death cited a “struggle” with state troopers.
“A short time later Greene became unresponsive and was transported to Glenwood Medical Center by Pafford Medical Service,” the report said. Greene died on the way to the medical center, according to the LSP report.
Audio from Hollingsworth’s body camera that was released by state police 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**k 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 b*tch was still fighting and we was still wrestling with him trying to hold him down because he was spitting blood everywhere,” Hollingsworth says in the video.
He adds, “and then all of a sudden he just went limp.”
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CNN’s Eric Levenson contributed to this report.