NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Beaten and shackled 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 stay on his belly, according to body-camera video newly obtained by The Associated Press.
And the long-secret autopsy report, also newly secured, cited Greene’s head injuries and the way he was restrained as factors in his 2019 death. It also noted he had high levels of cocaine and alcohol in his system as well as a broken breastbone and a torn aorta.
I beat the ever-living f— out of him, choked him and everything else trying to get him under control,” Trooper Chris Hollingsworth can be heard telling a fellow officer in the newly obtained batch of video. “All of a sudden he just went limp. … I thought he was dead.”
“You all got that on bodycam?” the other officer asks over the phone, at which point Hollingsworth switches his camera off.
The footage and the autopsy report add to the growing wealth of details about Greene’s death, which has long been surrounded by allegations of a cover-up and is now the subject of a federal civil rights investigation. Louisiana State Police initially blamed his death on a car crash and made no mention of use of force by officers.
AP earlier this week published previously unreleased body-camera footage that showed troopers converging on Greene’s car outside Monroe, Louisiana, after a high-speed chase, repeatedly jolting the 49-year-old unarmed man with stun guns, putting him in a chokehold, punching him in the head and dragging him by his ankle shackles.
Use-of-force experts say the most dangerous and troubling parts of the arrest came after the struggle, when officers left the heavyset Greene facedown 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 prop himself up on his side.
“Don’t you turn over! Lay on your belly! Lay on your belly!” Trooper Kory York yells before briefly dragging Greene by the chain that connects his ankle shackles.
York then kneels on Greene’s back and tells him again, “You better lay on your f—— belly like I told you to! You understand?”
“Yes, sir,” Greene replies.
“The trooper’s wrong and what he did is excessive,” said Charles Key, a use-of-force expert and former Baltimore police lieutenant. “It’s a mistake because he can’t breathe. You see Greene drawing his legs up, and that may be because he can’t freaking breathe.”
Police are highly discouraged from leaving handcuffed suspects in a prone position, particularly when they aren’t resisting, because it can greatly hinder their breathing — a point made repeatedly at the trial this spring of the former Minneapolis officer convicted of murder in the death of George Floyd.
Louisiana State Police said federal authorities have barred them from commenting on the Greene case. The U.S. Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
While the autopsy on Greene listed his cause of death as “cocaine induced agitated delirium complicated by motor vehicle collision, physical struggle, inflicted head injury and restraint,” it did not specify the manner of death — a highly unusual move that did not make it clear whether Greene’s death could be deemed a homicide, an accident or undetermined.
Arkansas State Crime Lab pathologists Jennifer Forsyth and Frank J. Paretti, who conducted the autopsy in May 2019 for the Union Parish Coroner’s Office, found Greene had a “significant” level of cocaine in his system — 1,700 nanograms per milliliter — and a blood-alcohol content of 0.106, just above the 0.08 level that amounts to drunken driving in Louisiana.
They said it “cannot be stated with certainty” whether many of Greene’s injuries — including a fracture of the sternum, or breastbone, and a laceration of his aorta — were attributable to the car crash or the struggle with troopers.
- Ronald Greene This undated photo provided by his family in September 2020 shows Ronald A. Greene. Greene’s family filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit in May 2020 alleging Louisiana state troopers “brutalized” Greene, used a stun gun on him three times and “left him beaten, bloodied and in cardiac arrest” before covering up his actual cause of death. Officials originally said his injuries were caused by a car crash that ended a May 2019 police chase or an ensuing struggle with state troopers. (Family photo via AP)Read More »