5 Louisiana Officers Indicted for Beating Motorist Ronald Greene to Death, Then Covering It Up

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Police Abuse

Credit the leaking of body camera footage to the press for helping force the matter.

Scott Shackford |

Ronald Greene body camera footage

(Louisiana State Patrol footage via Associated Press)

Five Louisiana law enforcement officers have finally been charged with crimes in connection with the brutal death of Ronald Greene, a 49-year-old motorist stopped by state troopers in 2019 and then viciously beaten by them.

When Greene died, authorities told his family he had been killed in a car crash fleeing from police outside Monroe. In reality, Greene did crash his car into a tree, but that’s not what killed him. Police body camera footage showed the troopers pulling him out of the car, beating him, tasing him, and even dragging him across the ground. The family’s suspicions of the official account were bolstered by an emergency room report of Greene’s injuries that didn’t match what they were told.

The body camera footage was concealed from the public. The state didn’t even open an investigation of the incident until more than 450 days after Greene’s death, after his family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in May 2020. Then the Associated Press somehow got its hands on the body camera footage and released clips of it to the public in 2021, showing Greene’s beating. The A.P. also got a recording of one of the troopers involved, Chris Hollingsworth, confessing to a colleague that he “beat the ever-living fuck” out of Greene. After Hollingsworth was told in September 2020 that he was going to be fired for his role in Greene’s death, he died in a single-car crash.

On Thursday, a state grand jury indicted five other law-enforcement officers connected. They face a host of charges from negligent homicide to malfeasance. The harshest charges were directed toward Master Trooper Kory York, who is seen on the footage dragging Greene across the ground by his ankles and putting his foot on Greene’s back to force him face-down on the ground.

The A.P.’s accounting of all the charges shows a remarkable amount of not just cruelty but ass-covering:

The others who faced various counts of malfeasance and obstruction included a trooper who denied the existence of his body-camera footage, another who exaggerated Greene’s resistance on the scene, a regional state police commander who detectives say pressured them not to make an arrest in the case and a Union Parish sheriff’s deputy heard on the video taunting Greene with the words “s—- hurts, doesn’t it?”

The Justice Department has launched an investigation of the Louisiana State Police to determine whether the treatment of Greene is an indication of widespread violent behavior toward black citizens. Just months after the A.P. released footage of Greene, it released body camera footage of a black man, Aaron Bowman, being beaten by a state trooper with a flashlight after Bowman was pulled over for “improper lane usage.”

That trooper, Jacob Brown, resigned and faces state and federal charges. He’s scheduled for trial in March.

According to the A.P., Union Parish District Attorney John Belton had been delaying state charges while the Department of Justice considered federal civil rights charges against the troopers involved. But, reportedly, federal prosecutors doubted they’d be able to prove that the troopers acted “willfully” in violating Greene’s rights, so they told Belton to move forward with a state grand jury to consider charges. The federal investigation remains open.

As I noted when the body camera footage was first released, imagine whether any of this would have happened had the footage not leaked. Not only is the case an important reminder of why we need to require police to wear body cameras, but it’s also a warning of the dangers of allowing the law enforcement agencies to control when footage can be made public.

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