Activists Demand Charges Over Fatal Arrest of Black Man in Louisiana

After the release of body-camera footage, the family of Ronald Greene and civil rights activist are calling on Louisiana officials to fire and charge the state troopers involved in Greene’s deadly 2019 arrest.

This image from video from Louisiana state trooper Lt. John Clary’s body-worn camera shows trooper Kory York standing over Ronald Greene on May 10, 2019, outside of Monroe, La. (Louisiana State Police via AP)

NEW ORLEANS (CN) — Leaders of civil rights groups on Thursday urged Louisiana officials to make arrests for the 2019 death in police custody of Ronald Greene, an unarmed Black man seen in bodycam video being punched in the face by state troopers and dragged by his ankle shackles in his last moments.

Body-camera footage is typically turned over quickly following an incident. In this case, however, which is the subject of a federal civil rights investigation, Louisiana officials resisted demands for the video in which Greene, a 49-year-old unarmed Black man, is wrestled to the ground by state troopers and pummeled before going lifeless after being arrested outside Monroe, Louisiana.

Now, civil rights advocates and Greene’s family attorney say state officials appear to be resisting demands for justice, instead playing hot potato over which agency is responsible for holding the officers involved in Greene’s arrest accountable.

Louisiana State Police finally released all known video evidence from the encounter last Friday, but only after most of the footage had already been obtained and released to the public by the Associated Press.

Last year, details of Greene’s death began to come out after police initially told his family he died of injuries sustained after driving his car into a tree.

In one short clip from bodycam footage, Master Trooper Chris Hollingsworth is seen slapping Greene several times and shocking him with a stun gun. He is heard in a separate recording obtained by the AP telling colleagues that he “beat the ever-living fuck out of ”Greene before he “just went limp.”

Hollingsworth died in a single-vehicle accident last September just hours after learning he’d be fired for his role in Greene’s fatal arrest.

In the aftermath of Greene’s death, State Police arrested four Monroe-based troopers accused of using excessive force in two separate incidents that also involved Black suspects during traffic stops. The many instances of abuse of Black suspects have raised pressing questions about the culture within Troop F, which is based in Monroe and has jurisdiction over 12 parishes in northeast Louisiana.

Greene’s family and civil rights advocates are demanding to know why those cases resulted in criminal charges while the Greene investigation has not.

“We’re over two years. I don’t know how I can say it any louder,” Mona Hardin, Greene’s mother, said at a Thursday morning press conference.

“It doesn’t even seem rational to even speak any more of this because of what we know, what we have on hand,” Hardin added. She concluded a while later, “We need someone to be arrested. We need them to be indicted.”

State Police officials said the question of whether criminal charges will be brought from the May 2019 incident is up to a federal grand jury to decide, but no timeline has been given.

Leaders of the National Urban League and other civil rights groups on Thursday called for the state troopers involved in Greene’s death to be fired and arrested.

Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, spoke of Greene’s arrest and death at the news conference with other civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP.

“Mr. Greene was killed by these state troopers,” said Morial, a former mayor of New Orleans, after viewing footage of Greene’s death. “After seeing that video, no reasonable person could come to any other conclusion other than a crime has been committed by Louisiana state troopers.”

Hardin, Greene’s mother, appeared at the news conference on the steps of the Governor’s Mansion in Baton Rouge with attorney Lee Merritt, who represents the family. Hardin and Merritt said they had met with a state legislator and had previously asked the governor’s office and district attorney to urge a judge to issue an arrest warrant for the state troopers involved.

Merritt said they were told to trust the process and for the results of a federal investigation.

After Hollingsworth’s death, another trooper, Dakota DeMoss, faces probable termination, and trooper Kory York was put on a 50-hour unpaid suspension for kicking and dragging Greene.  

The highest-ranking trooper involved, Lieutenant John Clary, tried to mislead internal investigators about what happened, reporting that Greene was still a danger even after being shackled and denying the existence of his own bodycam footage, according to a report from the Associated Press. He has since been fired.

“No one has delivered any specific action,” Merritt said. “We believe in equal protection under the law. And we know that if a white citizen, a fellow police officer, the governor’s child, had met the same end that Ronald Greene met, there would be action by now.”

Merritt said he met earlier this week with John Belton, the district attorney who presides over Union and Lincoln parishes, but that the prosecutor said arrest warrants would have to come from State Police because the agency has not turned over a complete file to his office.

“We simply reject that,” the attorney said.

Merritt also said state officials not have yet committed to making arrests, arguing they are not inclined to bring justice for members of the Black community and would rather keep them oppressed.

Eugene Collins, president of the Baton Rouge branch of NAACP, said the limited discipline State Police has handed down so far over the incident shows the agency hasn’t yet proven “the ability to do the right thing by themselves yet.”

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