Thursday, May 26, 2022

Louisiana governor holds mother amid conflicting accounts of fatal arrest

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat in a dark red state, was plunged into a tough reelection campaign when he received a text message from the state police chief: Troopers had engaged in “a violent, protracted struggle” with a black motor. driver, ending with the death of the man.

Edwards was informed of the circumstances of Ronald Green’s death within hours of his May 2019 arrest, according to text messages the Associated Press received through a public records request. Yet the governor remained silent as police told a very different story to the victim’s family and official reports: that Greene died of an accident after a speeding chase.

For two years, Edwards remained publicly silent about conflicting accounts and potential cover-ups until the AP obtained and published long-held body-camera footage showing what really happened. : White soldiers shock Greene with stun guns, punching him in the face. And dragging him by the shackles of his ankles and pleading for mercy, he shouted, “I am your brother! I’m scared! I’m scared!”

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The governor has repeatedly rejected requests for interviews, and his spokesman did not say what steps Edwards took, if any, in the immediate aftermath of Greene’s death. “Governors do not direct disciplinary or criminal investigations, nor would it be appropriate for them to do so,” spokeswoman Christina Stephens said.

What the governor knew, when he knew it and what he had done has become a question in the federal civil rights investigation into the deadly encounter and whether the police brass obstructed justice to protect the soldiers who arrested Greene. .

“The question is: when did he know the truth?” Cleo Fields, a Baton Rouge Democrat who is the deputy chairman of a legislative committee created last year to ditch complaints of excessive force by state police.

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According to law enforcement officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the investigation, the FBI has questioned people in recent months about Edwards’ awareness of various aspects of the case. Investigators focused on an influential legislator, saying the governor downplayed the need for a legislative inquiry.

FILE – This image taken from video from the camera wearing the body of Louisiana State Soldier Lieutenant John Cleary shows Soldier Corey York standing on Ronald Green’s belly on May 10, 2019, outside Monroe, LA.

The governor’s spokesman said he was not being investigated and neither was any member of his staff.

Edwards kept silent about the Green case through his re-election campaign in 2019 and through a summer of protests in 2020 over racial injustice in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. Even after Green’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit that drew attention to the case in late 2020, Edwards refused to characterize the soldiers’ actions and expressed his concern for not interfering with the federal investigation. He declined to release his body-camera video, citing ,

But when the AP obtained and published long-stopped footage of the encounter, which left Green bloody, motionless and limp on a dark road near Monroe, Edwards finally spoke out.

Edwards condemned the soldiers, calling their actions “deeply unprofessional and incredibly disturbing”.

“I am disappointed with him and any other officer who stood by me and did not interfere,” the governor said in a statement. He later called the soldiers’ actions “criminal”.

But Edwards, a Louisiana sheriff’s attorney with a long family line, has also commented since the release of the video that downplayed the soldiers’ antics, even reiterating the narrative that Green was in a car accident. may have been killed.

“Did he die from the injuries sustained in the accident?” Edwards said in response to a question on a radio show in September. “Obviously he did not die in the accident as he was still alive when the soldiers were engaging with him. But what was the cause of death? I don’t know if it was misrepresented.”

Weeks after those comments, a re-examined autopsy commissioned by the FBI completely debunked the accident theory, attributing Green’s death to “physical conflict.” Soldiers repeatedly startled him. Diya, hit him in the head, barred him at length, and Green used cocaine.

Federal investigators have taken an interest in the conversation Edwards had last June with state Representative Clay Schexneider, the powerful Republican House speaker, who was considering a legislative investigation into the Green case after the video was released.

Schachneider said this week that the governor told him there was no need for further action from the legislature because “Green died in a wreck.” The speaker said he never proceeded with the investigation to avoid interference with the federal investigation.

FILE - Ronald Green smiles in an undated photo provided by his family.

FILE – Ronald Green smiles in an undated photo provided by his family.

The governor’s spokesman acknowledged that he briefed the legislative leadership on the “understanding of the Green Inquiry” and said his remarks were in line with his public statements. The US Justice Department declined to comment.

“It’s time to find out what happened, who knew what and when, and if anyone covered it up,” Schachneder told the AP. “The Green Family deserves to know the truth.”

Edwards received word of the Green case from then-Louisiana State Superintendent of Police Kevin Reeves in a text on May 10, 2019, at 10 a.m., nearly nine hours after the fatal arrest.

“Okay morning. Just an FYI,” the message read. “Early this morning, soldiers attempted to stop a vehicle in Ouachita Parish. The driver ran through two parishes at over 110 mph, eventually crashing The soldiers attempted to apprehend the driver. But, a violent, protracted struggle ensued. After a brief tussle with the suspect, the troops were joined by a Union parish deputy and were able to take the suspect into custody. .. The suspect remained belligerent but became unresponsive shortly before the arrival of EMS.

The explanation given to Edwards, which his spokesman called a “standard notification”, was very different from what Greene’s family said—which was being told by soldiers at around the same time—that the 49-year-old had died under the impact in a car. Crash at the end of the chase. A coroner’s report that day indicates that Greene was killed in a motor vehicle accident and that a state police accident report makes no mention of soldiers using force.

Reeves ends his lesson by telling the governor that the man’s death is being investigated.

“Thanks,” Edwards replied.

Those words were included in some of Edwards’ statements issued in response to a broad public-records request by the AP filed in June for material related to Greene’s death.

This image, obtained via a public records request by the Associated Press, shows a text message to Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards informing him of the fatal 2019 arrest of Ronald Green.

This image, obtained via a public records request by the Associated Press, shows a text message to Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards informing him of the fatal 2019 arrest of Ronald Greene.

The governor’s office has not released any messages from Edwards to its staff and has yet to fully respond to a separate December request for his texts with three top police officers.

Hundreds of other emails and text messages released by the governor’s office show he has publicly distanced himself from issues of the case and state police violence, with his staff more engaged behind the scenes, with his top lawyers repeatedly Contacting state and federal prosecutors. about green case

Alexander Van Hook, who oversaw the civil rights investigation into Greene’s death as acting U.S. attorney in Shreveport until December, said no attempt was made by the governor in November to influence the investigation. “It wouldn’t have gone very well with us if there had been,” Van Hook told the AP.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, a Republican, said Edwards had a duty to at least follow up with the state police chief after he was informed of Greene’s death.

“When something goes wrong … he is shocked,” said Landry, “when behind the scenes he is intimately involved in trying to control the message and distort it from the public.”

Meanwhile, state police recently admitted that the department “sanitized” Reeves’ cellphone, intentionally erasing messages when he retired in 2020 amid the AP’s initial reporting on Green’s death. The agency said it did the same thing with a phone call from another former police commander, Mike Noel, who resigned from a regulatory position last year as he was to be questioned by lawmakers about the case. Police said there is a policy of such erasures.

Edwards’ office said the governor first became aware of the “accusations surrounding Mr. Green’s death” in September 2020 – the same month in which a state senator called Edwards’ lawyers to sue the Green family’s wrongful-death Sent a copy which was filed. months ago.

No one has yet been charged with a crime in Green’s death and only one of the soldiers involved in his arrest has been fired. Master Trooper Chris Hollingsworth, who was recorded as saying he “always beat the living f” Green, died in a car accident in 2020 after learning he would lose his job.

In early October 2020, after the AP published audio of Hollingsworth’s comments, the governor reviewed the video of Green’s fatal arrest, his spokesman said.

Some observers of Edwards’ response to the Green case see it as a partly political calculation.

At the time of the fatal arrest, the centrist was in a difficult reelection campaign in a deeply conservative state against a Republican backed by Democrat Donald Trump. His path to re-election relied on high black turnout and crossover support from law enforcement.

Joshua Stockley, a political scientist at the University of Louisiana Monroe, said Green’s death – and the footage that eventually went viral – “would be a political threat to both voting groups simultaneously”.

But the first public signs that Greene was abused didn’t surface until months after Edwards won 51% of the vote over businessman Eddie Rispon. He won in large part due to a large turnout by black voters in urban areas, taking 90% of the vote in Orleans Parish, 60% of Black Parish that includes New Orleans.

“I find it hard to believe that the release of this video during the election would not have any profound consequences,” Stockley said. “It would have been huge.”


This article is republished from – Voa News – Read the – original article.

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