When Ronald Greene, a 49-year-old Black man, died in May 2019, police told his family that it happened after his car crashed into a tree during a chase with officers. The bodycam footage finally released this week by Louisiana State Police shows that wasn’t even close to the whole story. The police released the footage, which came from nine body camera and dash camera videos, on Friday shortly after the Associated Press obtained and published portions of the footage. The shocking videos showed how police stunned, punched, and dragged Greene as he repeatedly yells “I’m sorry” after he led them on a high-speed chase when he didn’t pull over.
Police had been resisting releasing the video of the encounter and only did so after the AP published the leaked footage. Ron Haley, an attorney for Greene’s family, called the video release “two years too late, but better late than never.” Police are now insisting that an investigation was launched right after Greene’s death, but the family’s lawyers say all law enforcement did was try to cover up what happened. “Two things can be true,” Haley said. “There could have been an investigation that was immediately opened. But the family was also lied to that he died in a car crash. If you’re going to investigate yourself and give the family a BS reason for his death, hoping they don’t look into it, it’s never going to come out.”
Police had initially said Greene was taken into custody after “resisting arrest and a struggle with Troopers” and died on his way to the hospital. The videos released this week show just how little that description squared with what actually happened, particularly the four minutes between the time officers open Greene’s car and when he’s in handcuffs. The videos show that police were quick to fire their Tasers even while Greene is still in the car and apologizing. “OK, OK. I’m sorry. I’m scared. Officer, I’m scared, I’m your brother, I’m scared,” Greene said as officers tried to drag him from his car. Then when officers try to handcuff Greene, video shows how an officer continues to tase Greene even when he’s already restrained. Greene then screams out as he’s pushed face down to the ground and an officer punches him in the face while the one who is trying to put handcuffs on him punches his lower back.
Instead of immediately helping him after he was handcuffed, Greene was left unattended for more than nine minutes as officers clean up blood off their hands and faces. At one point an officer drags Greene from his shackled ankles while he’s face down on the ground. Audio from one of the bodycams shows an officer talking about what happened. “And I beat the ever-living fuck out of him, choked him and everything else trying to get him under control,” one of the officers said. “All of a sudden he just went limp. … I thought he was dead.” When the other officer asks about the bodycam over the phone, the officer switches the camera off. “It literally was torture,” David Thomas, a professor of forensic studies at Florida Gulf Coast University tells NBC News. “There was no regard for humanity.”
Greene’s family says they expect new developments soon. “We have been in close contact with FBI and we expect federal indictments to happen soon,” an attorney for Greene’s family, said. “The Greene family has waited long enough for justice.” Greene’s mother, Mona Hardin, said the whole thing was a “coverup” and amounted to “organized crime within the state of Louisiana.” In an interview with CNN, Hardin likened what happened to her son to a lynching. “The video is horrific, and now these still images of Greene’s face, his head, after his death,” she said. “I mean, it reminds me of Emmett Till. His mother wanted the world to see what hate did to her son.”