Ronald Greene was a forty-nine year old barber from Monroe, Louisiana whose life was tragically cut short during an encounter with police on May 10, 2019. Nearly two years later, and one year following George Floyd’s death, new examinations of Greene’s final moments are bringing a different perspective to yet another Black man’s loss at the hands of authorities.
In the time since Greene’s passing, the Louisiana State Police Department (LSPD) had maintained that his death, set into motion by a police chase due to an alleged traffic violation, was the result of a car accident. However, on May 19, 2021, the Associated Press’s (AP) release of two video clips of the encounter shocked the public. The clips revealed the sinister truth of Greene’s death at the hands of LSPD officers and the disturbing plot to hide their actions.
Though the full footage of Greene’s encounter with the troopers spans forty-six minutes, consisting of both body and dash camera recordings, the clips originally released by AP span about two minutes. Just the short clips resulted in a wave of alarm. Two days following AP’s release of the shortened clips, the LSPD released the full forty-six minute clip as well as additional body camera and dash camera footage. In the same breath, they described AP’s release of the clips as premature as they depicted an ongoing investigation. Colonel Lamar Davis stated that what AP had released did not provide the full context of the encounter. The LSPD claimed that the troopers were justified in what they’d done to Greene. From what is revealed in the footage, the public would soon learn that this is not the case.
Greene was brought to the hospital, dead on arrival, by the troopers who had pulled him over. They claimed that he had been killed in a crash during the chase. After examining Greene’s body, a doctor had left a note: “Does not add up.”
The troopers’ story had not made sense, as Greene’s body was peppered with stun gun wounds he had sustained while still living. Greene’s family, who were given access to the police’s footage last fall, claim that Greene’s vehicle had not endured damage indicative of a car crash. Further, an accident reconstructor confirmed that the damage to Greene’s vehicle is inconsistent with a fatal collision. Additionally, Greene could “walk, speak and otherwise function in a healthy manner,” according to the Greene family’s lawsuit against the police department filed in May 2020. This leaves only the footage of the encounter left: How had the troopers found Greene when they’d approached his car?
The disturbing footage shows the troopers involved, all white, approaching Greene’s car after a one hundred and fifteen mile-per-hour car chase. They jolted him with a stun gun after he apologized for the chase. Greene can be heard screaming, “I’m sorry,” and, “I’m scared,” and telling the troopers that he is their brother. One trooper wrestled Greene to the ground, put him in a chokehold, and punched him in the face. Another is seen dragging Greene face down across the ground while he was shackled by his wrists and ankles. Greene was jolted by a stun gun again while he was still restrained.
During this time, the troopers can be heard calling Greene names such as “bitch” and “stupid motherfucker,” one admitting that he had beaten and choked Greene in an effort to “get him under control.” This same officer is heard saying that he beat the “ever-living fuck” out of Greene. One trooper had cut his microphone about halfway through, making piecing the arrest together difficult. The troopers had left Greene unattended, moaning, for more than nine minutes while they wiped their hands and faces of blood. “I hope this guy ain’t got AIDS,” one can be heard joking menacingly.
Charles Key, use-of-force expert, claims that the practice of leaving someone in handcuffs unattended is dangerous. For many years, police training has instructed officers to leave those in handcuffs on their side to facilitate breathing, particularly heavy people. Greene, then having recently gone into remission after a two year battle with cancer, was at risk based on the position he was left in. Several minutes later, Greene is seen limp, unresponsive, and heavily bleeding from his head and face. When he was loaded onto a gurney following the paramedics’ arrival, he was handcuffed to the bedrail. Throughout the encounter, Greene was unarmed.
Even with all of this damning evidence, the Union Parish coroner ruled Greene’s death accidental due to cardiac arrest. In the official report, there is no mention of a struggle with police.
“They murdered him. It was set out, it was planned,” accused Greene’s mother Mona Hardin. “He didn’t have a chance. Ronnie didn’t have a chance. He wasn’t going to live to tell about it.”
The footage of Greene’s brutalization enraged the public, and LSPD’s conspiracy to withhold the recording was another strike in the national distrust of police. Not surprisingly, an internal investigation into the officers involved in Greene’s death was not launched until four hundred and seventy-four days after his murder. Greene’s family released a photograph of Greene’s bloodied and beaten face, displaying the full extent of what the officers had done. Following the Greene family’s lawsuit, federal investigations into the circumstances of Greene’s death have begun. The organizations investigating his death include the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Louisiana.
The lawsuit filed by Greene’s family includes seven defendants, three of whom remain unnamed. Of those named are police officer Kory York, who served a fifty hour suspension for improperly deactivating his body camera during the arrest and has since returned to active duty impending the outcome of state and federal investigations. York was found to have violated policies regarding the treatment of prisoners in unrelated cases. Another trooper, Chris Hollingsworth, died in a car crash in September 2020. Hours before, Hollingsworth had been notified that he would be fired due to the LSPD’s internal investigation into Greene’s death. Trooper Dakota DeMoss was arrested for an unrelated case under charges of use of excessive force and deactivating his body camera.
In the wake of public outrage, Louisiana’s governor John Bel Edwards has released a Twitter statement strongly supporting the decision to release the footage of Greene’s death. He claims that he had viewed the footage a year prior and found its contents disturbing. He also announces his support of Col. Davis and his confidence in Davis’s ability to “not only lead, but transform the agency.” However, these are hollow and misguided words to a country that mourns the daily deaths and abuse of Black people at the hands of police. The public demands more from elected officials and those responsible: Accountability from the LSPD and Louisiana Department of Justice as well as from all officers involved in Greene’s murder. Join us in doing so using the phone numbers listed below.
Governor Edwards: (225)-342-7015
Louisiana State Police Department: (225)-925-6006
Louisiana Department of Justice: (225)-326-6705