Footage Shines Light on Black Man’s Deadly Arrest in Louisiana

Newly released footage shows white troopers repeatedly tasing, punching and dragging an unarmed Black motorist shortly before his death during an arrest two years ago.

Family members of Ronald Greene gather at the Lincoln Memorial for the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 2020. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

(CN) — In body camera footage obtained after a two-year delay, Louisiana state troopers are seen repeatedly beating and dragging a Black man by his ankle shackles, despite shrieks of agony from the man and apologies for leading them on a high-speed chase.

Police initially told relatives that Ronald Greene, a 49-year-old, unarmed Black man, died of injuries sustained after driving his car into a tree in 2019.  

But the footage obtained by the Associated Press shows one trooper wrestling Greene to the ground, placing him in a chokehold and punching him, while another officer calls him a “stupid motherfucker.”   

“I’m sorry! I’m scared. I’m scared,” Greene can be heard pleading as his voice quakes from being tased repeatedly before he has even gotten out of the car along a dark road outside of Monroe, Louisiana.

Body-camera footage is typically turned over quickly following an incident. However, in this case, which is the subject of a federal civil rights investigation, Louisiana officials resisted demands for the video.  

State troopers eventually released a one-page statement acknowledging Greene struggled with officers before his death. But the extent of the altercation between Greene and officers was unknown until the release of a 46-minute video obtained by the AP.   

In a two-minute clip released by the AP Wednesday, Greene repeatedly says he is sorry. He calls out “Taser” in an anguished voice as one trooper yells, “You’re about to get it again if you don’t put your fucking hands behind your back!” The officer then uses the stun gun on Greene, despite what appears to be his attempt to move his arms.

The clip includes a partial voice-over by Andrew Scott, an expert in the use of force.

“What’s problematic for me,” Scott says during the clip, “is that Mr. Greene is now left on the ground, on his stomach, handcuffed in a prone position, and officers are trained throughout the United States that once there is a struggle of this nature, and the individual is handcuffed, that you need to push him off onto his side, or get him into a sitting position so you can allow that breathing to be unimpeded by his own body weight.”

Scott says he counted nine minutes elapse while Greene laid face down with his arms handcuffed behind his back.

Soon after, Trooper Kory York is seen yanking Greene’s leg shackles and dragging him briefly on his stomach even though he had been lying there calmly.  

“And I didn’t understand that – there was absolutely no reason for that,” Scott says in his narration on the AP clip. “Under no circumstances should Mr. Greene have been drug by his ankle shackles. That was malicious, sadistic, completely unnecessary, and the officer who did it is going to have to be held accountable.”

York was suspended without pay for 50 hours for dragging Greene and for improperly deactivating his body camera. York said the camera had been making loud beeps and his “mind was on other things,” according to an AP report.

Master Trooper Chris Hollingsworth, who is seen in the footage slapping Greene several times and shocking him with a stun gun, is heard in a separate recording obtained by the AP telling colleagues that he “beat the ever-living fuck out of” Greene.

“Choked him and everything else trying to get him under control,” Hollingsworth is heard saying. “He was spitting blood everywhere, and all of a sudden he just went limp.”

Greene’s family filed a federal lawsuit last year that challenged the troopers’ assertion he died by hitting a tree.

In October, Greene’s family viewed the body-camera footage with their attorney, Lee Merritt.

“This family has been lied to the entire time about what happened,” Merritt, a civil rights attorney, told the AP after watching the footage. “The video was very difficult to watch. It’s one of those videos like George Floyd and even Ahmaud Arbery where it’s just so graphic.” 

The exact cause of Greene’s death remains unknown. Last year, the Union Parish coroner’s office reportedly said Greene’s death was accidental and attributed to cardiac arrest. The coroner’s report apparently made no mention of a struggle with police.

A medical report also obtained last year by the AP showed an emergency room doctor made note that Greene was dead upon arriving to the hospital, bruised and bloodied and with two stun-gun prongs in his back. The doctor questioned troopers’ initial account that Greene had “died on impact” after crashing into a tree, the report said.

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