North Carolina judge rules against media and sheriff requests to make body camera video public.
Body camera footage obtained by The Associated Press news agency shows Louisiana state troopers stunning, punching and dragging a Black man as he apologised for leading them on a high-speed chase during a deadly arrest.
“I’m your brother! I’m scared!” Ronald Greene can be heard telling the white troopers as the unarmed man is jolted repeatedly with a stun gun before he even gets out of his car along a dark, rural road.
The 2019 arrest outside Monroe, Louisiana, is the subject of a federal civil rights investigation. Greene’s case has been shrouded in secrecy and accusations of a coverup as Louisiana officials have rebuffed repeated calls to release footage and details about what caused the 49-year-old’s death.
Troopers initially told Greene’s family he died on impact after crashing into a tree during the chase. Later, state police released a one-page statement acknowledging only that Greene struggled with troopers and died on his way to the hospital.
The 46-minute video obtained by the AP comes from one trooper’s body camera. It 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 the man facedown after his legs had been shackled and his hands cuffed behind him.
Instead of rendering aid, the troopers leave Greene unattended, facedown and moaning for more than nine minutes, as they use sanitiser wipes to wash the blood off their hands and faces.
“I hope this guy ain’t got f****** AIDS,” one of the troopers can be heard saying.
After a several-minute stretch in which Greene is not seen on camera, he appears again, limp, unresponsive and bleeding from his head and face. He is then loaded onto an ambulance gurney, his arm cuffed to the bedrail.
In many parts of the video, Greene is not on the screen, and the trooper appears to cut the microphone off about halfway through, making it difficult to piece together exactly what was happening at all times. At least six troopers were on the scene of the arrest but not all had their body cameras on.
“They murdered him. It was set out, it was planned,” Greene’s mother, Mona Hardin, said Wednesday. “He didn’t have a chance. Ronnie didn’t have a chance. He wasn’t going to live to tell about it.”
A lawyer for Greene’s family, Lee Merritt, said the footage “has some of the same hallmarks of the George Floyd video, the length of it, the sheer brutality of it”.
“He apologised in an attempt to surrender,” Merritt said.
Use of force
Louisiana State Police declined to comment on the content of the video. In a statement, the agency said the “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.”
State police brass initially argued the troopers’ use of force was justified and did not open an administrative investigation until 474 days after Greene’s death.
“Police departments have got to stop putting roadblocks up to information that is, in the public’s eye, questionable,” Andrew Scott, a former Boca Raton, Florida, police chief who testifies as an expert witness in use-of-force cases told the AP.
“It suggests that you’re hiding something.”
While noting Greene “was not without fault” and appeared to resist the troopers’ orders, Scott said dragging the handcuffed man facedown by his ankle shackles was “malicious, sadistic, completely unnecessary”.
Charles Key, another use-of-force expert and former Baltimore police lieutenant, questioned the troopers’ decision to leave Greene unattended, handcuffed and prone for several minutes.
Key told the AP the practice is “just dead wrong.”
Governor John Bel Edwards allowed Greene’s family to view the same body camera footage last year and pledged to release it to the public after the federal investigation runs its course.
Greene’s family has filed a federal wrongful-death lawsuit alleging troopers “brutalised” Greene, and “left him beaten, bloodied and in cardiac arrest” before covering up the cause of death.
Greene failed to pull over for an unspecified traffic violation shortly after midnight on May 10, 2019. The video obtained by AP begins then, with Trooper Dakota DeMoss chasing Greene’s SUV on rural highways at more than 185kmph (115mph).
Seconds before the chase ended, DeMoss warned on his radio: “We got to do something. He’s going to kill somebody.”
We now know what Louisiana State Police have been trying to hide: Ronald Greene was tortured to death by officers who denied him life-saving aid for more than nine minutes. A system that produces such extreme levels of violence cannot be reformed – it must be dismantled. https://t.co/ZwlEY7dx1V
— ACLU of Louisiana (@ACLUofLouisiana) May 19, 2021
As DeMoss and Master Trooper Chris Hollingsworth rush Greene’s SUV, he can be seen appearing to raise his hands and saying over and over, “OK, OK. I’m sorry.”
Hollingsworth shocks Greene with a stun gun within seconds through the driver’s side window as both troopers demand he gets out of the vehicle.
Greene exits through the passenger side as the troopers wrestle him to the ground. One trooper can be heard saying “He’s grabbing me” as they try to handcuff him. “Put your hands behind your back, bitch,” one trooper says.
Hollingsworth strikes Greene multiple times and appears to lie on one of his arms before he is finally handcuffed.
At one point, Trooper Kory York yanks Greene’s leg shackles and briefly drags the man on his stomach even though he is not resisting.
York was suspended without pay for 50 hours for the dragging and for improperly deactivating his body camera. York told investigators the device was beeping loudly and his “mind was on other things”.
Hollingsworth, in a separate recording obtained by AP, can be heard telling a colleague at the office that “he beat the ever-living f*** out of” Greene.
Hollingsworth later died in a single-vehicle highway crash that happened hours after he learned he would be fired for his role in the Greene case.
DeMoss, meanwhile, was arrested in connection with a separate police pursuit last year in which he and two other troopers allegedly used excessive force while handcuffing motorist Antonio Harris.
Exactly what caused Greene’s death remains unclear. Union Parish Coroner Renee Smith told AP last year his death was ruled accidental and attributed to cardiac arrest.
Smith, who was not in office when that determination was made, said her office’s file on Greene attributed his death to a car crash and made no mention of a struggle with the state police.