Ronald Greene's death in Louisiana, via apparent cop torture, suggests America's policing problem -- including dishonesty -- is getting worse, not better

Cops brutalizing Ronald Greene

 

The Minneapolis murder trial in the death of George Floyd shined a spotlight on the propensity of American cops to lie, especially when they feel the need to cover up misconduct within the ranks. The problem has become so pronounced that some journalists are questioning the reliability of cops as sources on crime stories.

Perhaps the most egregious case of cop fabrication is unfolding now in Louisiana, where the recent release of video footage shows the death of Ronald Greene was caused by circumstances wildly different from what police stated. How gross were the cops' lies in the Greene case? Here is how Axios describes it in a recent e-newsletter:

Bodycam footage shows Ronald Greene's 2019 death was not as Louisiana law enforcement initially described, reports AP, which obtained and released the video.

Why it matters:

Greene’s case has been shrouded in secrecy and accusations of a cover-up.

  • Greene, a 49-year-old Black man, had been stopped after a high-speed chase that reached 115 mph when he failed to stop for an unspecified traffic violation. Police initially told his family he died after crashing into a tree.
  • State Police released a one-page statement acknowledging only that Greene struggled with troopers and died on his way to the hospital.
  • State Police brass argued the use of force was justified and didn't open an administrative investigation until 474 days after Greene’s death.
  • Greene's family was shown footage last year, but it wasn't made public.

The 46-minute clip shows one trooper wrestling Greene to the ground, putting him in a chokehold and punching him in the face while another can be heard calling him a “stupid motherf-----.”

  • Greene wails “I’m sorry!” as another trooper delivers another stun gun shock to his backside and warns, “Look, you’re going to get it again if you don’t put your f------ hands behind your back!”
  • Another trooper can be seen briefly dragging Greene facedown after his legs had been shackled and his hands cuffed behind him.

The troopers then left Greene unattended for more than nine minutes, facedown and moaning.

  • In a statement to AP, Louisiana State Police said “premature public release of investigative files and video evidence in this case is not authorized and ... undermines the investigative process and compromises the fair and impartial outcome.”
  • The bottom line: While noting Greene “was not without fault” and appeared to resist the troopers’ orders, former Boca Raton police chief and frequent expert witness Andrew Scott said dragging Greene facedown by his ankle shackles was “malicious, sadistic, completely unnecessary.”

So Ronald Greene did not really die from crashing into a tree. Police essentially beat and choked him to death, throwing in a little sadistic torture for good measure. This is from CNN:

Two years after Ronald Greene died after an encounter with Louisiana State Police, the agency released the video footage recorded by body cameras that night, Superintendent Col. Lamar Davis said at a Friday news conference.

The news comes the same day that CNN obtained an autopsy report from the night Greene died in 2019 as well as one of the body camera videos. The recording is from a Louisiana State Police trooper who arrived as other officers attempting to arrest Greene had him on the ground. Davis opened his remarks by offering his "sincere condolences" to Greene's family. He then said: "It's unfortunate that the path to get here has taken this long."
 
Davis said the department was releasing all the video related to the case and the ongoing criminal investigation. State police began investigating Greene's death a few hours after he died on May 10, 2019, Davis said, adding that it remains under investigation by state and federal agencies. Bodycam video from police officers at the scene of his fatal encounter was released to media outlets over this past week without state police approval, Davis said.
 
The autopsy lists Greene's cause of death as "cocaine induced agitated delirium complicated by motor vehicle collision, physical struggle, inflicted head injury, and restraint," according to the report, obtained from a source with knowledge of the investigation.

Can the public trust the autopsy report? Did cocaine and a vehicle crash have anything to do with Greene's death? I would say there is reasonable doubt on those questions. In fact, the report seems to raise about as many questions as it answers:

The autopsy, prepared by the Union Parish Coroner's Office, states in its opinion section that lacerations of Greene's head were "inconsistent with motor vehicle collision injury and most consistent with multiple impacts from a blunt object."
 
The report notes that "no written incident report was provided despite requests," and that "no detailed information regarding the motor vehicle collision ... was provided. It also notes that "no emergency services medical records were provided" to the coroner's office.
 
"Whether this injury is due to trauma from the motor vehicle collision, subsequent struggle, or is resuscitative in nature cannot be stated with certainty. These findings can be associated with motor vehicle collision, but may also be seen in other circumstances, including inflicted injury during a struggle and/or related to resuscitative efforts (CPR)," the report said.
 
There were significant levels of cocaine and alcohol in Greene's blood, the report says.
The AP reported last year that Union Parish Coroner Renee Smith said Greene's death was ruled accidental and was attributed to cardiac arrest.
 
CNN has reached out to the coroner's office for comment on the report. The autopsy does not list the manner of death (accidental, homicide, natural causes, suicide or undetermined).

As for the video, it paints an ugly picture. (See video below):

The new video, obtained by CNN before its release by state police, appears to show a different perspective from the scene than recordings previously released by The Associated Press.
 
A trooper who appears to be a supervisor is seen arriving at the scene after Greene has been detained, and appears to praise the troopers, though it's not clear why or what he knew about the incident at the time.
 
"You all did a good job, you all called it out, did a good job," he says.
 
He asks if the troopers are OK, and one is heard to say, "Yes sir, just wiping the blood off me." 
Greene's damaged vehicle can be seen behind where an officer is standing over him.
 
Greene is lying on the ground screaming and moaning when a trooper is heard telling Greene not to turn over. "Lay on your belly, lay on your belly" says the trooper.
 
"Yes sir," says Greene.
 
With Greene now propped up against a trooper's leg, one asks him why he ran from police.
"All you did is speed a little bit and run a red light," the trooper says.
 
"I was just tired," Greene answers.
 
Greene ends up face first on the ground, moaning with two troopers holding him, a trooper says, "I was going to sit him up, but I didn't want him spitting blood all over us."
 
Greene is not visible in most of the 30-minute video. In the moments where Greene is visible, he doesn't appear to be resisting police.
 
In parts of the video that show Greene, no troopers appear to be attempting to provide medical support.

Lee Merritt, a civil-rights lawyer from Philadelphia, represents the Greene family. From the Philadelphia Tribune:

The body-camera 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 in an interview Wednesday. “He wasn’t apparently injured at all. It’s obvious from these videos he was brutalized and tortured for about 15 minutes.”