NEW ORLEANS – Beaten and chained up by Louisiana state troopers, black motorist Ronald Greene desperately tried to roll over in what may have been a struggle to breathe but was ordered to lie face down, according to a recent body camera video. Obtained by The Associated Press. .
And the long-secret autopsy report, also recently obtained, cited Greene’s head injuries and the way he was immobilized as factors in his death in 2019. It also noted that he had high levels of cocaine and alcohol in his system, as well as a broken sternum and a torn aorta.
“I beat him up, I strangled him and everything else to get him under control,” cop Chris Hollingsworth can be heard telling a colleague in the newly obtained batch of video. Suddenly he went limp. … I thought he was dead. “
“Does everyone have that on the body camera?” asks the other officer on the phone, at which point Hollingsworth turns off his camera.
The images and autopsy report add to the growing wealth of detail about Greene’s death, which has long been surrounded by charges of cover-up and is now the subject of a federal civil rights investigation. Louisiana State Police initially blamed his death on a car accident and did not mention the use of force by officers.
On Friday, after two years of refusing to explain Greene’s death and under increasing public pressure, state police released all body camera footage related to Greene’s arrest, despite ongoing investigations. Gov. John Bel Edwards, in a radical change, said he “strongly supported” the publication and called the video “disturbing and difficult to watch.”
But the AP had already obtained those materials and this week posted Unreleased body camera footage showing police officers converging on Greene’s car outside Monroe, Louisiana after a high-speed chase, repeatedly shaking the unarmed 49-year-old man with stun guns, squeezing him, and hitting him in the head. and dragging him by the shackles of the ankles.
Use of force experts say the most dangerous and troubling parts of the arrest came after the fight, when officers left the portly Greene face down on the ground with his hands and feet restrained for more than nine minutes.
At one point in a new 30-minute video, Greene can be seen struggling to lean on his side.
“Don’t turn around! Lie face down! Lie face down! Trooper Kory York yells before briefly dragging Greene down the chain connecting his ankle shackles.
York then kneels on Greene’s back and tells him again, “You better lie on your stomach like I told you! You understand?”
“Yes sir,” Greene replies.
“The police officer was wrong and what he did is excessive,” said Charles Key, a use of force expert and former Baltimore police lieutenant. “It is a mistake because he cannot breathe. You see Greene lifting his legs, and that may be because he can’t breathe. “
It is highly discouraged for police to leave handcuffed suspects in a prone position, particularly when they are not resisting, because it can make their breathing enormously difficult, a point that was made repeatedly in the trial this spring of the former Minneapolis officer convicted of murder in George’s death. Floyd.
State Police Superintendent Colonel Lamar Davis, who was not in charge at the time of Greene’s death, declined to comment on the conduct of the officers involved or whether he believed they should be charged. But he said he had spoken with Greene’s family and offered his condolences: “I can feel his pain and feel it in my heart.”
“The officers who are subject to these investigations have due process,” Davis said. “You have my commitment that we will follow the facts and hold our staff to account.”
While Greene’s autopsy listed his cause of death as “agitated cocaine-induced delirium complicated by motor vehicle collision, physical fighting, inflicted head injury and restraint,” it did not specify the manner of death, a highly unusual move that did not it did. It’s clear whether Greene’s death could be considered a homicide, an accident, or indeterminate.
Arkansas State Crime Laboratory pathologists Jennifer Forsyth and Frank J. Paretti, who performed the autopsy in May 2019 for the Union Parish Coroner’s Office, found that Greene had a “significant” level of cocaine in his system ( 1,700 nanograms per milliliter) and blood. alcohol content of 0.106, just above the 0.08 level that equates to drunk driving in Louisiana.
They said it “cannot be said with certainty” whether many of Greene’s injuries, including a fracture of the breastbone or breastbone, and a laceration of the aorta, were attributable to the car accident or fighting with soldiers.
“There were head lacerations inconsistent with the motor vehicle collision injury,” they wrote. “These injuries are more consistent with multiple impact sites from a blunt object.”
In the latest video, Greene, with his legs chained and his hands cuffed behind his back, is face down on the ground, and two soldiers can be seen on top of him before he suddenly yells. One of the officers says, “Yes, yes, that hurts, doesn’t it?”
“OK! Oh Lord Jesus. Oh Lord!” Greene yells. “GOOD GOOD. Lord Jesus! Okay, I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
It is unclear from the video what the officer is describing, but multiple law enforcement officers who reviewed the footage indicated that this could be the time one of them pepper-spray Greene. A previously unreleased use of force document shows that pepper spray was used in the arrest.
“If they pepper sprayed him at the time, that’s overkill,” Key said. “There has to be some threat. He is handcuffed. “
Minutes after Greene’s outburst, he begins to moan and gurgle as two soldiers hold him down.
The new video, shot with Lt. John Clary’s body camera, remained a secret for months, including within the State Police, but was recently turned over to the FBI as part of its investigation, according to three law enforcement officials. They were not authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.
At one point, after medical help arrives, a paramedic is heard saying, “He’s not getting enough air” and appears to put his blood oxygen level at 86, which Key described as critically low. However, it appears that no one is giving Greene oxygen.
Louisiana officials had rejected for two years repeated calls to post pictures and details about what caused Greene’s death after the chase, which began with an unspecified traffic violation. Officers initially told his family that he died on impact after crashing into a tree. Later, the state police issued a short statement acknowledging only that Greene fought with the soldiers and died on the way to the hospital.
That secrecy extended to the autopsy, which pathologists say was hampered by the fact that the state police failed to provide even the most routine documents related to Greene’s arrest, including police reports, details of the collision or the emergency medical records.
Andrew Scott, a former Boca Raton, Florida police chief who testifies as an expert witness on the use of force, said the Greene case is an example of how “evasion is the Achilles heel of law enforcement. “.
“The only reason I can surmise that this information would not be provided to the medical examiner’s office is because they did not want them to see it,” Scott said. “They intentionally thwarted the facts of this case so that they were actually disclosed.”