'I'm scared': AP obtains video of deadly arrest of Black man

Attorney Lee Merritt speaks at a news conference in October along with the family of Ronald Greene and others, outside the Louisiana state Capitol in Baton Rouge. The Associated Press obtained bodycam footage of an altercation between Greene and officers before his death in police custody.

NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana state troopers were captured on body camera video stunning, punching and dragging a Black man as he apologized for leading them on a high-speed chase — footage of the man’s last moments alive that the Associated Press obtained after authorities refused to release it for two years.

“I’m your brother! I’m scared! I’m scared!” Ronald Greene can be heard telling the white troopers as the unarmed man is jolted repeatedly with a stun gun before he even gets out of his car along a dark, rural road.

The 2019 arrest outside Monroe, La., is the subject of a federal civil rights investigation. But unlike other in-custody deaths across the nation where body camera video was released almost immediately, Greene’s case has been shrouded in secrecy and accusations of a cover-up.

Louisiana officials have rebuffed repeated calls to release footage and details about what caused the 49-year-old’s death. Troopers initially told Greene’s family he died on impact after crashing into a tree during the chase. Later, state police released a one-page statement acknowledging only that Greene struggled with troopers and died on his way to the hospital.

Only now in the footage obtained by the AP from one trooper’s body camera can the public see for the first time some of what happened during the arrest.

The 46-minute clip shows one trooper wrestling Greene to the ground, putting him in a chokehold and punching him in the face while another can be heard calling him a “stupid mother-[expletive].”

Greene wails “I’m sorry!” as another trooper delivers another stun gun shock to his backside and warns, “Look, you’re going to get it again if you don’t put your [expletive] hands behind your back!” Another trooper can be seen briefly dragging the man facedown after his legs had been shackled and his hands cuffed behind him.

Instead of rendering aid, the troopers leave the heavyset man unattended, facedown and moaning for more than nine minutes, as they use sanitizer wipes to wash blood off their hands and faces.

“I hope this guy ain’t got [expletive] AIDS,” one of the troopers can be heard saying.

After a several-minute stretch in which Greene is not seen on camera, he appears again, limp, unresponsive and bleeding from his head and face. He is then loaded onto an ambulance gurney, his arm cuffed to the bedrail.

In many parts of the video, Greene is not on screen, and the trooper appears to cut the microphone off about halfway through, making it difficult to piece together exactly what was happening at all times. At least six troopers were on the scene of the arrest, but not all had their body cameras on.

“They murdered him. It was set out, it was planned,” Greene’s mother, Mona Hardin, said Wednesday. “He didn’t have a chance. Ronnie didn’t have a chance. He wasn’t going to live to tell about it.”

An attorney for Greene’s family, Lee Merritt, said the footage “has some of the same hallmarks of the George Floyd video, the length of it, the sheer brutality of it.”

“He apologized in an attempt to surrender,” Merritt said.

Louisiana State Police declined to comment on the contents of the video. In a statement, the agency said the “premature public release of investigative files and video evidence in this case is not authorized and ... undermines the investigative process and compromises the fair and impartial outcome.”

State police brass initially argued the troopers’ use of force was justified — “awful but lawful,” as ranking officials described it — and did not open an administrative investigation until 474 days after Greene’s death.

“Police departments have got to stop putting roadblocks up to information that is, in the public’s eye, questionable. They have to reveal all that they know, when they know it,” said Andrew Scott, a former Boca Raton, Fla., police chief who testifies as an expert witness in use-of-force cases. “It suggests that you’re hiding something.”

While noting Greene “was not without fault” and appeared to resist the troopers’ orders, Scott said dragging the handcuffed man facedown by his ankle shackles was “malicious, sadistic, completely unnecessary.”

“That should never have never happened,” he said. “You’ve got the guy completely compromised. He’s not hurting anybody.”



Charles Key, another use-of-force expert and former Baltimore police lieutenant, questioned the troopers’ decision to leave Greene unattended, handcuffed and prone for several minutes, calling the practice “just dead wrong.”

“You don’t leave somebody lying on the ground, particularly after you’ve had this fight,” Key said. “The training has been for a number of years that, as soon as you get someone under control, you put them on their side to facilitate their breathing ... and particularly this guy, because he was very heavy.”

Gov. John Bel Edwards allowed Greene’s family to view the same body camera footage last year and pledged to release it to the public after the federal investigation runs its course.

Greene’s family has filed a federal wrongful-death lawsuit alleging troopers “brutalized” Greene and “left him beaten, bloodied and in cardiac arrest” before covering up the cause of death. His family has released graphic photographs of Greene’s body on a gurney, showing deep bruises and cuts on his face and head.

Greene, a barber, failed to pull over for an unspecified traffic violation shortly after midnight on May 10, 2019, about 30 miles south of the Arkansas state line. That’s where the video obtained by AP begins, with Trooper Dakota DeMoss chasing Greene’s SUV on rural highways at over 115 mph.

Seconds before the chase ended, DeMoss warned on his radio: “We got to do something. He’s going to kill somebody.”

As DeMoss and Master Trooper Chris Hollingsworth rush Greene’s SUV, he can be seen appearing to raise his hands and saying over and over, “OK, OK. I’m sorry.”

Hollingsworth shocks Greene with a stun gun within seconds through the driver’s side window as both troopers demand he get out of the vehicle.

Greene exits through the passenger side as the troopers wrestle him to the ground. One trooper can be heard saying “He’s grabbing me” as they try to handcuff him. “Put your hands behind your back, bitch,” one trooper says.

Hollingsworth strikes Greene multiple times and appears to lie on one of his arms before he is finally handcuffed.

At one point, Trooper Kory York yanks Greene’s leg shackles and briefly drags the man on his stomach even though he isn’t resisting.

York was suspended without pay for 50 hours for the dragging and for improperly deactivating his body camera. York told investigators the device was beeping loudly and his “mind was on other things.”

Hollingsworth, in a separate recording obtained by AP, can be heard telling a colleague at the office that “he beat the ever-living f- — out of” Greene.

“Choked him and everything else trying to get him under control,” Hollingsworth is heard saying. “He was spitting blood everywhere, and all of a sudden he just went limp.”

Hollingsworth later died in a single-vehicle highway crash that happened hours after he learned he would be fired for his role in the Greene case.

DeMoss, meanwhile, was arrested in connection with a separate police pursuit last year in which he and two other troopers allegedly used excessive force while handcuffing a motorist.

Exactly what caused Greene’s death remains unclear. Union Parish Coroner Renee Smith told AP last year his death was ruled accidental and attributed to cardiac arrest. Smith, who was not in office when that determination was made, said her office’s file on Greene attributed his death to a car crash and made no mention of a struggle with State Police.

The AP last year also obtained a medical report showing an emergency room doctor noted Greene arrived dead at the hospital, bruised and bloodied with two stun-gun prongs in his back. That led the doctor to question troopers’ initial account that Greene had “died on impact” after crashing into a tree.

“Does not add up,” the doctor wrote.

(10) comments

Jim Klukkert

Once again, racist murder most foul.

The folks nearest this crime had better clear this up with Just reforms, or others will arrive to take care of business.

Not another Emmet Till, ever.

mark Coble

A real shame. Good thing this never happens to White folk. But that would NOT make the news, ever. Wonder why?

Angel Ortiz

White folk never die in police custody.

David Ford

It does happen to "white folks" but the rate and methods are what show the disparity. Black citizens make up 12% of the population in the US but die at a rate of 25-35% at the hands of police over whites. And the number of whites who die is proportional to their percentage of the population of the US overall. In fact UNARMED blacks are killed at a rate 3 times that of whites. Often though whites are killed at a distance with guns, whereas blacks are more often than whites to be beaten to death at the hands of the police in brutal "personal" fashion even after being subdued.

That is why the disparity in reporting Mark.

John Solan

It is uncontroverted that a black person being killed by a white police officer is more likely to be reported in the media, given their philosophical leanings. Between Jan 2020 and April 2021 there have been 507 whites shot to death by police, compared to 271 blacks. But virtually no one knows the names of those white people (except for Ashli Babbitt).

Jim Klukkert

John Solan- would you carer to cite your source for this information regarding "Between Jan 2020 and April 2021 there have been 507 whites shot to death by police, compared to 271 blacks."

Thank you.

Jim Klukkert

John Solan- I was troubled by your comment that “that a black [sic] person being killed by a white police officer is more likely to be reported in the media.”

The issue is whether or not African-Americans suffer disproportionally higher rates of death by police shootings than white people. If so, this is newsworthy. The media is motivated to do its job by the worthiness of the story rather than, as you claim, the media’s “philosophical leanings.”

The Census reports that of the total US population, only about 13% are African-American. From my reading of the following sources, though there is a variety of statistics offered, the uniform consensus is that there is a far higher likelihood of African-Americans being killed by police shootings than of white being killed by the same.

From a University of Chicago paper: Lethal Force in Black and White: Assessing Racial Disparities in the Circumstances of Police Killings by Shea Streeter.

“African Americans are nearly three times as likely to be killed by police as whites.”

See: https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/full/10.1086/703541

From Statista.com: “Sadly, the trend of fatal police shootings in the United States seems to only be increasing, with a total 292 civilians having been shot, 62 of whom were Black, in the first four months of 2021…The rate of fatal police shootings in the United States shows large differences based on ethnicity. Among Black Americans, the rate of fatal police shootings between 2015 and April 2021 stood at 36 per million of the population, while for White Americans, the rate stood at 15 fatal police shootings per million of the population.”

For 2020, results reported were 457 Whites killed, 241 Blacks killed, mean ing that 37% of Police shooting deaths of Whites and Blacks were American-Americans; twice as many African-Americans were killed as were whites. If the 169 Hispanics killed is added to these numbers, for a total of 410 People of Color killed, then of Whites, Hispanics, Blacks killed in police shootings, 47% were People of Color. This is a staggering figure.

See: https://www.statista.com/statistics/585152/people-shot-to-death-by-us-police-by-race/

In closing Mr. Sloan, your comment makes no sense from a racial justice point of view. Intelligent readers will not be confused by your irrelevant juxtaposition of facts supporting foolish accusations. If there is a bias built on “philosophical leanings,” it is yours to own, Mr. Solan.

Jim Klukkert

My apologies to all concerned regarding errors in my previous reply to Mr. John Solan. Please find below a corrected reply. Thank you.

John Solan- I was troubled by your comment that “that a black [sic] person being killed by a white police officer is more likely to be reported in the media.”

The issue is whether or not African-Americans suffer disproportionally higher rates of death by police shootings than white people. If so, the issue is newsworthy. The media is motivated to do its job by the worthiness of the story rather than, as you claim, the media’s “philosophical leanings.”

The Census reports that of the total US population, only about 13% are African-American. There is a far higher likelihood of African-Americans being killed by police shootings than of white being killed by the same.

From Statista.com: “Sadly, the trend of fatal police shootings in the United States seems to only be increasing, with a total 292 civilians having been shot, 62 of whom were Black, in the first four months of 2021…The rate of fatal police shootings in the United States shows large differences based on ethnicity. Among Black Americans, the rate of fatal police shootings between 2015 and April 2021 stood at 36 per million of the population, while for White Americans, the rate stood at 15 fatal police shootings per million of the population.”

For 2020, results reported were 457 Whites killed, 241 Blacks killed, mean ing that 37% of Police shooting deaths of Whites and Blacks were American-Americans. If the 169 Hispanics killed in 2020 is added to these numbers, for a total of 410 People of Color killed, then of Whites, Hispanics, Blacks killed in police shootings, 47% were People of Color. This is a staggering figure given the relatively low proportion of US residents who are Hispanic or Black.

See: https://www.statista.com/statistics/585152/people-shot-to-death-by-us-police-by-race

In closing Mr. Sloan, your comment makes no sense from a racial justice point of view. Intelligent readers will not be confused by your irrelevant juxtaposition of facts supporting foolish accusations. If there is a bias built on “philosophical leanings,” it is yours to own, Mr. Solan.

John Solan

Jim, my point was that a white police officer shooting a black person is more likely to be reported in the national media, such as the NY Times, Washington Post, et al than a white person being shot. In the last few years, the deaths of Botham Jean, Breana Taylor, George Floyd , Jacob Blake, and Daunte Wright come to mind. . I don't recall the same depth and breadth of reporting on police officers shooting white victims.

Jim Klukkert

John Solan- I do understand that your point "that a white police officer shooting a black person is more likely to be reported in the national media, such as the NY Times, Washington Post, et al than a white person being shot."

As I said earlier, that follows from the facts that the disproportional rate at which African-Americans are shot down, compared to white people, is in itself newsworthy in a nation where many demand an end of racism, that is to say, suffering due to a person having certain racial identity, i.e. People of Color.

I do believe the siege mentality that plagues our folks in blue has led to higher mortalities for all groups, and if that is your concern as well, we share some common ground. It may be true, in part, that for benign reasons that I assume have something to do with time, space and staffing, the media does not cover that aspect mod police shootings.

I also would argue that what is not so benign is the class perspective of most journalists. Most journalists come from privileged backgrounds, so they have not dealt first or second hand with the deaths of working class whites. I would assert makes for a class bias on the part of the media on this issue, as well as in many of the sectors of this culture, as the elites in charge of our country do not come from working class backgrounds.

I am pleased that People of Color now command enough agency that those elites are compelled to see issues of racism. Working class whites are only now coming into some increased agency as the Pandemic has revealed how essential American workers are to a healthy economy.

I am a Democratic Socialist, and a fan of Bernie Sanders. I do believe the American Working Class, urban and rural, have largely been ignored by the elites of this country. Which is why Hillary was so 'surprised' that Trump could run up his vote totals in blue collar country. If the Democratic Party does not serve the interests of all working people, as well as the ambition of racial, gender and environmental justice, we shall see Trump like populism do very well in the coming electoral cycles.

I want to bring your attention to a University of Chicago publication of a paper by Shea Streeter (sheas@stanford.edu) is a PhD candidate at Stanford University. Streeter acknowledges that “research has found that blacks are nearly three times as likely as whites to be killed by law enforcement, reinforcing a perception that the police killings of black Americans are uniquely unjust (Buehler 2017; DeGue, Fowler, and Calkins 2016).” However, Streeter explores in indications that “conditional on contact, the police are killing whites and blacks under largely similar circumstances.”

The paper is long and dense, and I have not had time to fully digest it. I suspect it will tell us that working class folks are taking it on the nose pretty badly, though at a proportionately lower rate that People of Color.

In short, I suspect we have an epidemic of police violence in this country, an epidemic we need to understand and then turn around. As fast as we can, lives hang in the balance.

See: Lethal Force in Black and White: Assessing Racial Disparities in the Circumstances of Police Killings by Shea Streeter. https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/full/10.1086/703541

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