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Footage shows Louisiana troopers punching, dragging man who later died

In August 2020, family members of Ronald Greene and demonstrators gathered for a march on Washington on the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech.
In August 2020, family members of Ronald Greene and demonstrators gathered for a march on Washington on the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech.Michael M. Santiago/Associated Press

Ronald Greene’s relative were initially told he had died from injuries he sustained in a crash after he failed to stop for a traffic violation outside Monroe, La., in May 2019, a family lawyer said.

But police body-camera footage published by The Associated Press on Wednesday showed Greene, 49, screaming “I’m sorry” and “I’m scared” after troopers opened the door to his car and jolted him with a stun gun after a high-speed chase.

“I’m scared!” Greene screamed, according to the video. “I’m your brother! I’m scared!”

According to the AP, which said it had obtained 46 minutes of video footage from the encounter, one trooper wrestled Greene to the ground, put him in a choke hold, and punched him in the face. Another trooper briefly dragged him by his ankle shackles as he lay on the ground.

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Greene was jolted again with a stun gun while he was on the ground and handcuffed, the footage shows. The AP reported that the troopers, who were white, left Greene, who was Black, facedown and moaning for more than nine minutes as they wiped blood from their hands and faces.

“I hope this guy ain’t got AIDS,” one of the troopers said on the video, adding an expletive.

Greene’s death is under investigation by the FBI and other federal agencies.

The footage had been shown to Greene’s mother and sister last fall, according to the family’s lawyer, Lee Merritt, but had not been released publicly, unlike body-camera footage in other violent encounters with the police across the country. The AP did not say how it had obtained the footage, and Merritt said he had not released it.

Merritt said the footage provided more evidence that the troopers’ actions had led to Greene’s death.

“He was perfectly fine when the car came to a stop,” Merritt said Wednesday. “He wasn’t apparently injured at all. It’s obvious from these videos he was brutalized and tortured for about 15 minutes.”

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The Louisiana State Police said Wednesday that Greene’s death “remains under review by federal and state authorities.”

One of the troopers, Kory York, was temporarily suspended but is back on the force, the State Police said. Another, Chris Hollingsworth, who had been placed on paid administrative leave, died in a car crash in September.

Governor John Bel Edwards “has seen the video previously and he found it to be disturbing,” his office said in a statement Wednesday.

The statement said the State Police and the district attorney had, at Edwards’ request, arranged for the video to be shown to Greene’s family, along with their lawyers and several legislators. Edwards also met with Greene’s family.

“After discussion with the United States Attorney and the District Attorney, the Louisiana State Police has honored each of their requests to not release the video to the public during their ongoing investigations and will continue to do so until approved by the United States Attorney and the District Attorney at the conclusion of their investigations,” the statement said.

The Justice Department said Wednesday that it was involved in an “open and ongoing criminal investigation” of the episode with the FBI and other federal partners.

John Belton, district attorney for the 3rd Judicial District in Louisiana, said in a statement that it was “of the utmost importance that the Ronald Greene family and our community, as a whole, be provided complete and truthful answers about what happened to him.”

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He said that on the day he received a report from the State Police, he asked the Justice Department to review the circumstances surrounding the death, including whether any criminal or civil rights violations occurred.

The AP published the footage more than six months after photos circulated online that appeared to show Greene’s bruised and bloodied face and damage to his car that the family said was inconsistent with a fatal accident.

The photos were shared on social media after the president of the NAACP’s Baton Rouge branch posted them on Facebook.

The images were also included in a wrongful-death lawsuit that Greene’s family filed in May 2020, alleging he died as a result of a struggle with troopers that “left him beaten, bloodied and in cardiac arrest.” The lawsuit is pending, Merritt said.

A single-page crash report reviewed by The Associated Press said that troopers tried to stop Greene for an unspecified traffic violation just after midnight May 10, 2019. Greene, who lived in Monroe, refused to pull over and troopers pursued him, the AP reported, citing the document.

The report says the chase ended when Greene’s vehicle crashed, according to the AP.

“Greene was taken into custody after resisting arrest and a struggle with troopers,” the report says, adding that he “became unresponsive” and died as he was being taken to a hospital. The report did not mention any use of force by troopers, the AP said.

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According to the lawsuit, officers called for an ambulance, and emergency medical technicians found Greene unresponsive, with multiple Taser barbs in his body.

Greene’s death was ruled accidental and was attributed to cardiac arrest, Renee Smith, the Union Parish coroner, told the AP, adding that his file mentioned the car crash but not a struggle with the police.

The family commissioned an independent autopsy that found severe injuries to Greene’s head and skull and several wounds to his face, Merritt said.