Footage Shows Louisiana Troopers Punching and Dragging Man Who Died

By Michael Levenson

Body-camera footage obtained by The Associated Press showed Ronald Greene apologizing and screaming, “I’m scared,” as he was jolted with a stun gun after a high-speed chase in 2019.

Relatives of Ronald Greene bearing a message at the March on Washington last August.
Relatives of Ronald Greene bearing a message at the March on Washington last August.Credit...Pool photo by Michael M. Santiago

Relatives of Ronald Greene were initially told that 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, according to a lawyer for the family.

But body-camera footage obtained and published by The Associated Press on Wednesday showed Mr. 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!” Mr. Greene screamed, according to the video. “I’m your brother! I’m scared!”

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

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

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

Mr. Greene’s death is under investigation by the F.B.I. and other federal agencies.

The body-camera footage had been shown to Mr. 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 A.P. did not say how it had obtained the footage, and Mr. Merritt said he had not released it.

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

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

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

“The premature public release of investigative files and video evidence in this case is not authorized and was not obtained through official sources,” the State Police said in a statement. “L.S.P. is confident in the judicial system and fair review of this incident and continues to offer our full cooperation. Unauthorized release of evidence undermines the investigative process and compromises the fair and impartial outcome for the Greene family, L.S.P. employees, and the community.”

One of the troopers who was involved in the encounter, Kory York, was temporarily suspended and 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, the State Police said.

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

The statement said that the Louisiana State Police and the district attorney had, at Mr. Edwards’s request, arranged for the video to be shown to Mr. Greene’s family, along with their lawyers and several legislators. Mr. Edwards also met with Mr. 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 in a statement on Wednesday that it was involved in an “open and ongoing criminal investigation” of the episode with the F.B.I. and other federal partners.

John Belton, the district attorney for the Third 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.”

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

“To date, the federal investigation is ongoing,” Mr. Belton said. “Ethically, I am prevented from making any extrajudicial comments while this matter is under investigation.”

The A.P. published the footage more than six months after photos circulated online that appeared to show Mr. 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 N.A.A.C.P.’s Baton Rouge branch posted them on Facebook.

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

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

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

“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 A.P. said.

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

Mr. Greene’s death was ruled accidental and was attributed to cardiac arrest, Renee Smith, the Union Parish coroner, told The A.P., 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 Mr. Greene’s head and skull, and several wounds to his face, Mr. Merritt said.