Five Lousiana State Troopers have been charged in the death of Ronald Greene, a Black man who died in police custody after being brutally assaulted and tased during his arrest following a traffic stop in 2019. One of the troopers was charged with murder, the most serious indictment, while the others face related charges.
The charges were announced on Thursday, prompting Greene’s mother to renew her calls for accountability for the officers who she said “murdered” her son, the New York Times reported.
From the Times:
The state police said on Thursday that two troopers had been placed on administrative leave because of the indictment. One of them, Master Trooper Kory York, was charged with the most serious offenses, including negligent homicide and 10 counts of malfeasance in office. (Trooper York had previously received a 50-hour suspension and returned to active duty.) The other, Lt. John Clary, who was charged with malfeasance in office and obstruction of justice, was the highest-ranking trooper at the scene.
Two others with the state police, Trooper Dakota DeMoss and Capt. John Peters, were both charged with obstruction of justice. Christopher Harpin, a Union Parish sheriff’s deputy, was also named in the indictment, charged with three counts of malfeasance in office.
Trooper DeMoss was placed on leave last year after he was arrested in an unrelated case, in which he and three other troopers were charged with using excessive force and deactivating body cameras during arrests.
“Today’s indictments followed a thorough and extensive investigation by state and federal agencies,” Col. Lamar A. Davis, the superintendent of the Louisiana State Police, said in a statement after the charges were announced. “Any instance of excessive force jeopardizes public safety and is a danger to our communities. These actions are inexcusable and have no place in professional public safety services.”
According to Louisiana state law, a guilty verdict for negligent homicide carries prison time of no more than five years. A guilty verdict for malfeasance in office carries the same penalty.
“They need to be held accountable,” Mona Hardin told reporters after the troopers were charged. “Because if not, you’re condoning the killing of Ronald Greene. You’re OK with my son being murdered if you just give a slap on the wrist.”
Hardin’s words are not hyperbole.
In 2021, Greene’s family lawyer civil rights attorney S. Lee Merritt shared body cam footage of a supervisor arriving at the scene on the night of May 10, 2019, and encouraging the officers by telling them “they did a good job,” while they electrocuted, beat and dragged the 49-year-old Black man to his death outside of the city of Monroe.
That video’s release came about a week after the Associated Press obtained a 46-minute clip and released the bodycam footage to the public.
Greene was stopped for an unspecified traffic violation and refused to stop, which prompted a pursuit by police.
“Officer, I am scared. I’m your brother. I’m scared,” Greene can be heard saying in one of the clips. An officer then places Greene in a chokehold and punches him in the face while another officer calls him a “stupid motherfucker.” Greene is then tased repeatedly and beaten. At one point the state troopers use sanitary wipes to clean their hands covered in blood.
“I hope this guy ain’t got f—— AIDS,” one trooper says.
Greene’s family filed a federal wrongful suit in an effort to secure justice after urging for transparency around the case in what appeared to be a massive coverup. The family claims law enforcement authorities told them Greene died in a car crash, while a local parish coroner ruled his death was accidental and the result of cardiac arrest.
State Police eventually released a one-page statement claiming that Greene died on his way to the hospital after engaging in a struggle with officers.
Greene’s death sparked an internal investigation of the Louisiana State Police to determine if officers are targeting Black motorists in the state.
Last year, the FBI ordered Greene’s autopsy to be reexamined and the results pointed to the police lying about the death. 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.
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.
However, key factors that directly 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.
One official confirmed that the car crash and “agitated delirium” were both ultimately removed from the list of factors in Greene’s death as a result of the review.
The Associated Press noted at the time: “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.”
To be sure, the Louisiana State Police has an undeniable culture of brutality and corruption.
In an example of that type of brutality being the rule and not an exception for the Louisiana State Police, one of the troopers involved with Greene’s death — Dakota DeMoss — was, in an unlikely coincidence, also part of a group text with Louisiana State Troopers joking about using excessive force against a different Black suspect last year.
After a high-speed chase last year, the troopers texted each other, saying the driver would have “nightmares for a long time” from the “ass whoopin” he got. The group exchanged 14 text messages about the incident, including “lol” and “haha.”
They also all work out of of Troop F in northeast Louisiana, which is now part of a federal civil rights investigation into Greene’s death.
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