A common mistake made by media outlets, law enforcement and society, in general, is the mistake of taking the word of police officers as gospel. Far too often, police reports are taken at face value and regarded as the official word of truth as if cops don’t have the same incentive to lie that everyone else does, particularly as it relates to police use of force incidents.
In May 2019, Louisiana State Police officers arrested 49-year-old Ronald Greene, who had led them on a high-speed chase after failing to pull over for a traffic stop. Previously withheld body came footage showed that during the arrest, Greene was stunned repeatedly, punched repeatedly and placed in a chokehold, but the arresting officers claimed it was the car crash at the end of the chase that wasn’t even severe enough to deploy the airbag that caused Greene’s death. In light of the footage, the FBI ordered Greene’s autopsy to be reexamined and—you’re going to want to hold onto your seats for this one, folks—it turns out the cops were lying.
According to the Associated Press, the review of the autopsy, which did not involve another examination of the body, concluded that Greene’s death was caused by a number of factors, none of which had anything to do with the relatively minor car crash. (I mean, were we to believe that a car crashed causing tasers, fists and mysterious neck-clenching arms to start flying all around the inside of the vehicle?)
Now, to be completely fair, one factor listed in the new review was Greene’s use of cocaine. The review also found that Greene’s fractured breastbone and ruptured aorta were likely caused by the CPR administered by first responders.
But key factors that contributed to Greene’s death, according to the review, included the blows to the head he sustained at the hands (or fists) of police officers and the manner of restraint the cops used.
An official who spoke to AP under the condition of anonymity confirmed that the car crash and “agitated delirium” were both removed from the list of factors in Greene’s death.
As AP noted, “Still unclear was whether the new autopsy would prompt the Union Parish coroner to change the manner of Greene’s death from accidental to homicide, which could affect the charges available to state and federal prosecutors.” It’s hard to believe the review wouldn’t change things significantly, especially since Greene’s death has already prompted a probe into the Louisianna State Police, which has shown a clear pattern of these types of abuses.
Of course, this is still “back the blue” America, so finding justice for Greene is still likely to be an uphill battle.