Louisiana Police Blamed a Black Man’s 2019 Death on a Car Crash. His Family Just Viewed Footage of Police Beating and Tasing Him Before He Died

Illustration for article titled Louisiana Police Blamed a Black Man’s 2019 Death on a Car Crash. His Family Just Viewed Footage of Police Beating and Tasing Him Before He Died
Photo: Michael M. Santiago (AP)

A video of a Black man being beaten by Louisiana police, kept away from the public for more than a year, was finally shown to his family this week.

The family of Ronald Greene, who died after a brutal encounter with Louisiana State Police, saw a “graphic” 30-minute video on Wednesday depicting what happened to Greene when he was arrested by officers in May 2019, attorney Lee Merritt told the Associated Press. Merritt told the outlet the video shows cops choking and beating Greene, repeatedly stunning him with Tasers and dragging him face-down on the pavement.

“The video was very difficult to watch. It’s one of those videos like George Floyd and even Ahmaud Arbery where it’s just so graphic,” Merritt said.

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Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards was also on hand to watch the video.

Before Merritt’s description of the footage from police body cameras, little was known about what actually happened to Greene. Local and state officials have refused to release the video, citing ongoing investigations into the arrest. Initially, State Police blamed Greene’s death on injuries from a car crash after a high-speed chase. The crash report filed by police did not mention any use of force, nor did it state that Greene had actually been taken into custody.

What Merritt described is a brutal arrest that may have well caused Greene, a 49-year-old barber, his life. From the AP:

At one point, an officer is seen placing a foot on Greene “while another hogties him,” he said. One trooper can be heard calling Greene a “stupid son of a bitch,” Merritt said, while another cautions that “we shouldn’t tase him any more.”

“Ronald immediately surrendered at his first contact with law enforcement. When the vehicle stopped, he put his hands up and said, ’I’m sorry,’” Merritt said. “His dying words were, ‘I’m sorry.’”

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Along with the video, the AP also obtained a copy of the medical report from the incident showing that an emergency room doctor was skeptical of the police narrative.

“Does not add up,” wrote Dr. Omokhuale Omokhodion, who saw Greene when he arrived at Glenwood Regional Medical Center, already dead. According to the doctor, police had already told Greene’s family that he had “died on impact” after crashing his car into a tree, but Omokhodion noted that law enforcement gave “different versions” of the story of what happened. Eventually, police told Omokhodion that Greene “had been involved in a fight and struggle with them where he was tased three times.”

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Greene arrived at the hospital on May 10 bruised and bloodied, with lacerations all over his face and head. The report also stated that two taser probes were still in Greene’s back when he was admitted.

The discrepancies in the medical report led Greene’s family to believe that State Police were covering up what actually happened to Greene. In September, they released images of his injuries, noting that his SUV did not sustain much damage in the allegedly fatal crash.

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Then, earlier this month, the AP obtained a 27-second audio clip in which one of the six officers involved in Greene’s arrest, Master Trooper Chris Hollingsworth, bragged about beating him.

“I beat the ever-living fuck out of him,” Hollingsworth said in an apparent phone conversation with a colleague. The trooper added that cops “choked him and everything else” to try to subdue Greene, who he claimed was fighting back against officers.

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“He was spitting blood everywhere and all of a sudden he just went limp,” said Hollingsworth. He died late September in a single-car crash, just hours after learning he was being fired for his part in Greene’s arrest.

No other troopers have been disciplined.

Greene’s family has filed a federal wrongful-death suit against the troopers. His death is also the subject of a federal civil rights investigation.

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On Thursday, Gov. Edwards, a Democrat, told reporters that it would be “detrimental” to release video of Greene’s arrest to the public while an investigation is ongoing. He also refused to detail what he saw in the footage.

“I’m simply not going to sit here and characterize the video for you,” said Edwards.

Staff writer, The Root.

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DISCUSSION

How many of these cases do we have to see to lay the whole “bad apples” bs to rest? Nothing justifies this, nothing. And how many of these cases that are found to be justified do the cops lie? Lying in any case should be grounds for immediate dismissal and criminal charges. Lying should strip pensions and qualified immunity. Prosecutors should see that a lying cop is a worthless cop, a criminal cop, not some good buddy to be protected. That they don’t shows us how far this systemic rot goes.

As for the communities, brutality when condoned spreads, more domestic violence, more substance abuse, more injustice.  You want law and order?  Then enforce it, starting with law enforcement.