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Ronald Greene’s death sparked probe into Louisiana State Police use of force

Thursday, December 30, 2021
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Photo courtesy of Associated Press Ronald Greene is shown being arrested by Louisiana State Police in a rural area of Union Parish on May 10, 2019.

Sometime after midnight on May 10, 2019, Ronald Greene was tased, beaten and dragged facedown by Louisiana State Police troopers during a traffic stop on a rural Union Parish road. He apparently died at the scene.

The incident remained hidden from public view for two years until May of 2021 when the Associated Press obtained state police body camera video footage of the episode.

Since then, Greene’s death — that occurred in the Lincoln Parishinclusive 3rd Judicial District — has become the springboard of new investigations into excessive-force incidents that left several other Black motorists beaten, four troopers facing criminal charges and LSP facing allegations of cover-ups.

The day after the body cam footage went viral, 3rd Judicial District Attorney John Belton said he received the initial state police investigative report on the incident four months after Greene’s death.

That report included some of the body cam footage.

“Everything you’re now looking at is what I saw,” Belton said when the story broke in May.

He said the day he received the report, he turned it over the U.S. Justice Department so federal authorities could “conduct an in dependent review of the circumstances surrounding (Greene’s) death, including whether any criminal or civil rights violations occurred.”

The results of that review still had not been received.

A video image from the body camera worn by Louisiana State Police Lt. John Clary, of Ruston, the ranking officer on the scene, shows several other troopers standing over Greene, who’s lying face down, moaning on a road.

Though Clary was called to testify before the Louisiana State Senate Select Committee on State Police Oversight on Dec. 13 of this year, he did not appear, citing active cases in which he’s involved. So far, Clary, a 30-year LPS veteran, has received no disciplinary action stemming from the Greene incident.

Clary’s body camera footage was missing from the file originally sent to Belton. The video was reportedly discovered by a state police training officer. In July, Clary was cleared of allegations that he hid the video.

At no time in the segment of footage from Clary’s body camera do any of the law enforcement officers, including Clary, appear to give aid to Greene.

The events that ended in Greene’s death began when troopers attempted to pull over Greene’s small SUV on DeSiard Street near the University of Louisiana-Monroe. Greene allegedly sped away. A chase continued for more than 20 miles until Greene wrecked near the intersection of Louisiana 2 and Highway 143 in Union Parish.

After the wreck, troopers allegedly attempted to take Greene, 49, into custody. That’s when the altercation began, and Greene was handcuffed.

The body cam footage shows Greene apologizing for leading troopers on the chase. Later, Greene’s screams and the sound of the taser are audible. At one point, one of the troopers drags Greene by his feet over the pavement with his head scraping the road.

Though LSP initially said Greene died when his SUV collided with a tree, they later said he died in route to a West Monroe hospital following an altercation with officers.

Investigations that began after details of Greene’s death became public revealed some of the troopers involved were also involved in other use-of-force incidents often involving Black motorists.

Thus far, at least a dozen cases have been uncovered that took place over the last decade in which troopers or their supervisors apparently concealed or discounted evidence of possible wrong-doing.

LSP detective Sgt. Albert Paxton, with the state police detective unit in Monroe, is in charge of investigating Greene’s case. Paxton told the select Senate committee during its Dec. 13 hearing he had raised concerns up his chain of command but was snubbed.

In 2019, Paxton had recommended that Trooper Chris Hollingsworth, one of the first officers on the scene after Greene crashed his vehicle, face criminal charges for allegedly beating Greene, tasing him multiple times, and turning off his body and dashboard cameras.

But the captain in charge of the investigative unit apparently ignored Paxton’s suggestion.

Hollingsworth died last year in a single-vehicle wreck on Interstate 20 the after learning he was going to be fired over Green’s arrest.

Meantime, Louisiana State Police Superintendent Col. Lamar Davis has said use-of-force incidents will be better monitored now by LPS’s new Force Investigative Unit. The 15-person unit will look at tasers, chokeholds and blows to the head.

Davis told the Senate committee that members of the unit, which will report to him, have been selected, but he gave no timeline for when the unit will be activated.

Mona Hardin, Greene’s mother, has urged legislators to take action.

“I’ve been wandering around in a cloud of confusion, just wondering what does it take for the state of Louisiana to recognize the murder of a man,” Hardin told the committee. “Unless any of you have seen your son being killed on such a level, on such a horrific level, you would not know the feeling.”