The FBI has requested a reexamination of Ronald Greene’s autopsy as a result of the graphic, leaked body camera footage that shed light on the circumstances that may have led to his 2019 death while in the custody of Louisiana state troopers.
The Associated Press reports that the review of the autopsy was ordered as part of an ongoing civil rights investigation. Greene’s case was referred to federal officials in September 2019 after John Belton, the Union Parish district attorney, told colleagues he was “aghast” by what he saw in the body camera footage. There had been concerns that federal officials were moving too slowly with the case, but body camera footage leaked by AP in May has increased the urgency. Lee Merritt, the family’s attorney, told AP that federal investigators met with the family last month and laid out a clear plan to present the case to a grand jury by the end of the summer.
“They wanted to emphasize to the family that they’re serious this time,” Merritt told AP. “Their new enthusiasm is based on the public pressure that’s come from the release of the videos.”
The initial police report following Greene’s death said that he had died after crashing into a tree following a high-speed pursuit with state troopers. The leaked 45-minute body camera footage shows several state troopers beating Greene with a flashlight, placing him in a chokehold, and dragging him by his ankles while he’s laid out on his stomach. Concerns of a potential cover-up have only grown as more details about Greene’s death and the discrepancies in the reporting have been revealed.
From CBS News:
The materials that weren’t shared for the initial autopsy are just part of the secrecy that has shrouded Greene’s May 2019 death, which state police initially blamed on a crash following a high-speed chase outside Monroe. The ranking officer at the scene of Greene’s arrest denied the existence of his own body camera footage for two years, and state police did not open an administrative investigation into the troopers’ use of force until 474 days after Greene’s death.
The autopsy, conducted at the Arkansas State Crime Lab, listed Greene’s cause of death as “cocaine induced agitated delirium complicated by motor vehicle collision, physical struggle, inflicted head injury and restraint.” But it notably left unanswered whether the crash or excessive police force caused his most severe injuries, including a fractured breastbone and lacerated aorta.
“There were lacerations of the head inconsistent with motor vehicle collision injury,” the 10-page autopsy report says. “These injuries are most consistent with multiple impact sites from a blunt object.”
An independent autopsy commissioned by Greene’s family days after his death found it was “not possible to determine the cause,” citing a “significant lack of information regarding the circumstances.”
The FBI has requested Dr. Frank J. Peretti, the man behind the initial autopsy, take another look at the autopsy report that takes into account all of the new information that has been revealed in the two years since Greene’s death. “No cause of death is carved in stone,” Peretti told AP. “Sometimes additional investigative materials become available years later that you didn’t have. The correct thing to do is to review it.”
An autopsy that takes into account the new information could be instrumental in determining if charges will be filed against the officers. In a statement sent to AP, the Justice Department said, “If the investigation reveals prosecutable violations of any federal criminal statutes, the Department will take appropriate action.”