Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards denied delaying any investigation into the fatal May 2019 arrest of Ronald Greene on Tuesday.
Last week, Edwards response to Greene’s death was called into question after it was revealed that state police alerted him within hours of the fatal encounter.
Greene died during a violent confrontation with Louisiana State Troopers after he failed to stop for a traffic violation. Initially, officials claimed the 49 year-old died in a car crash but video revealed months later, as well as a new autopsy report, that Greene sustained injuries from the troopers tasing, punching and dragging him on the side of the highway.
Edwards maintains that he had no knowledge of the allegations levied against the police for another year, CNN reports, and even provided a CNN reporter with screenshots of the message he received that day, which does not include Greene’s name.
Now, two years into the federal civil rights investigation, Edwards is finally calling the troopers actions out for what it is: racist. He is also denying that he had any hand in interfering with the initial investigation and that his response had anything to do with his reelection campaign at the time.
“I can’t imagine if Mr. Greene had been white he would have been treated that way,” Edwards said, according to the Associated Press, at a news conference following his meeting with the Legislative Black Caucus. “We have to acknowledge racism when we see it. We have to call it what it is.”
The governor’s news conference came just minutes after a heated, closed-door meeting with the Legislative Black Caucus that at times erupted with members cursing over his muted response to Greene’s deadly arrest.
Some caucus members asked why Edwards did not speak out or follow up more forcefully when informed of the circumstances.
“A man died in custody. You don’t ask his name? You don’t ask what happened? You don’t get any facts?” one of the caucus members said, according to audio of the meeting obtained by the AP.
“This matter will not go away until there is an acknowledgement that there was a cover-up,” said another.
Edwards at one point said, “I am not going to tell you everything that has happened with the state police since I’ve been governor has been perfect.”
“They’re alleging that I have been personally involved in these things and I have not,” Edwards told the caucus.
In his news conference, the governor also denied the state House speaker’s contention that he sought to discourage a legislative inquiry into the case last year by blaming Greene’s death on a car wreck.
Edwards directly contradicted Rep. Clay Schexnayder’s account that Edwards told him just that in June and called his relationship with the powerful Republican House speaker “especially strained.”
There is currently a federal civil rights investigation into Greene’s death as well as an investigation into a potential coverup. Louisiana Republican officials have been considering taking legal action against Edwards for his response.