'Tortured to Death': Video Showing Fatal Louisiana Arrest of Unarmed Black Man Sparks Outrage

Relatives of Ronald Greene, an unarmed Black man who died following his brutal arrest by Louisiana State Police troopers in May 2019, demand justice during an August 28, 2020 demonstration at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

'Tortured to Death': Video Showing Fatal Louisiana Arrest of Unarmed Black Man Sparks Outrage

A doctor who examined Ronald Greene's body after the deadly May 2019 encounter said the Louisiana State Police claim that he died in a car crash "doesn't add up." 

Racial justice advocates on Wednesday accused Louisiana State Police of attempting to cover up the fatal 2019 arrest of an unarmed Black motorist whom troopers stunned, punched, kicked, dragged face-down on the pavement, and left handcuffed on the ground for more than nine minutes, after the Associated Press published video it obtained of the deadly encounter.

"They murdered him. It was set out, it was planned. He didn't have a chance. Ronnie didn't have a chance. He wasn't going to live to tell about it."
--Mona Hardin, Greene's mother

The APreports Lousiana State Police (LSP) officials initially told relatives of Ronald Greene that the 49-year-old barber died from injuries sustained in a car crash that occurred as he led troopers on a high-speed chase following an unspecified traffic violation outside Monroe on May 10, 2019.

However, the AP obtained police body camera footage that authorities withheld for two years showing Greene desperately apologizing as white officers brutally arrest him, repeatedly shooting him with a stun gun as he raises his hands in surrender inside his stopped car.

As Greene is attacked in his vehicle, he pleads: "I'm your brother! I'm scared! I'm scared!"

The officers--identified in a wrongful death lawsuit as Troopers Dakota Moss and Kory York and Master Trooper Chris Hollingsworth--then violently remove Greene from the car and tackle him to the ground, where he is seen lying face-down as he is placed in a chokehold and punched in the face by one officer while another calls him a "stupid motherf---er."

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT--The following video shows police violently arresting Ronald Greene.

Greene apologizes but is stunned again before being handcuffed and shackled and then dragged across the ground. He is left there alone for over nine minutes. The troopers offered no medical assistance despite Greene's agonized moans. Instead, they wipe his blood off their hands and faces with sanitizer sheets and one of the officers said, "I hope this guy ain't got f--king AIDS."

Several minutes later in the footage, Greene is seen lying limp and unresponsive, with blood flowing from his face and head. An ambulance eventually arrives and Greene is shackled onto a gurney and taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly after arrival.

In a separate body camera microphone recording previously obtained by the AP, Hollingsworth boasts to colleagues that he "beat the ever-living f--k out of" Greene.

"Choked him and everything else trying to get him under control," Hollingsworth says in the audio recording. "He was spitting blood everywhere, and all of a sudden he just went limp."

Last September, Hollingsworth died following a single-vehicle highway accident hours after learning he would lose his job over his role in Greene's death.

According to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Greene's family, the troopers' excessive use of force left their victim "beaten, bloodied, and in cardiac arrest."

"They murdered him. It was set out, it was planned," Greene's mother, Mona Hardin, told the AP on Wednesday. "He didn't have a chance. Ronnie didn't have a chance. He wasn't going to live to tell about it."

Lee Merritt, an attorney for Greene's family, said the footage "has some of the same hallmarks of the George Floyd video, the length of it, the sheer brutality of it. He apologized in an attempt to surrender. This was a malicious attack on the side of the road on a fully surrendered man."

Earlier this month, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by placing his knee on his neck for more than nine minutes last May.

The ACLU of Louisiana said bluntly that "Ronald Greene was tortured to death by officers who denied him lifesaving aid for more than nine minutes."

According to Union Parish Coroner Renee Smith, Greene's death was accidental and caused by cardiac arrest. A report from Smith's office makes no mention of police violence.

However, a medical report obtained by the AP shows an emergency room doctor almost immediately doubted troopers' claim that Greene "died on impact" after crashing his car into a tree. Noting the bloodied, bruised, and stunned corpse, the doctor wrote: "Does not add up."

Ranking LSP officers initially claimed that the troopers' use of force against Greene was justified, calling it "awful but lawful."

However, Andrew Scott, a use-of-force expert and former Boca Raton, Florida police chief, told the AP that while Greene "was not without fault," his treatment by the troopers was "malicious, sadistic, [and] completely unnecessary."

Former Baltimore police lieutenant Charles Key, another use-of-force expert, said the troopers were "just dead wrong" to leave Greene beaten and shackled on the ground for so long.

"You don't leave somebody lying on the ground, particularly after you've had this fight," Key told the AP. "The training has been for a number of years that, as soon as you get someone under control, you put them on their side to facilitate their breathing... and particularly this guy, because he was very heavy."

LSP officials waited 474 days before opening an investigation into the events of May 10, 2019, according to the AP report. In a statement, LSP said that "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."

Of the surviving officers named in the lawsuit, York was suspended without pay for 50 hours for improper deactivation of his body camera. DeMoss was arrested in February for allegedly brutalizing another Black man following a high-speed chase in May 2020 and then bragging about the "ass whoopin'" he inflicted on his victim.

Democratic Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards last year allowed Greene's family to view the suppressed footage, while promising to make the footage public following an investigation.

The Washington Postreports the U.S. Department of Justice said Wednesday that it is conducting an ongoing investigation of Greene's death involving the DOJ's civil rights division and the FBI. Merritt told the Post he was heartened by the fact that the Justice Department has been more "active" during the Biden administration.

"The trend that I'm seeing in 2021 in particular--it gives me hope in this case," he said.

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