Five state troopers have been indicted more than three years after they brutalized an unarmed Black man, Ronald Greene, to death in Louisiana.
“We’re just over the top. The mood was so thick; you could slice it,” Mona Hardin, Greene’s mother, told Atlanta Black Star. “In the end, we thought we were going to get two indictments and we ended up with five.”
The troopers beat Greene after a high-speed chase on a dark roadway in Union Parish, Louisiana, until his body went limp, but the police agency initially attributed his death to a car crash. Later, body camera video revealed he was bashed in the head with a flashlight, punched, tased and dragged by the Louisiana State Police troopers.
The indictment from the May 2019 beating comes after a federal probe and legislative investigation into police handling of the case. A state committee unpeeled layers of cover-ups by the police agency amid ongoing calls from his family for justice.
Greene’s family and community leaders said the grand jury’s decision on Thursday to indict the officers on charges was only the first and a “historic” step, but their push for justice is not over.
“Even though I’m glad for the arrests, it’s about what you’re going to make out of these arrests. There needs to be substantial time for a cop who murders while in uniform,” Mona Hardin, Greene’s mother, said Thursday night during a press conference following the grand jury’s decision. “They need to be held accountable because — if not, you’re condoning the killing of Ronald Greene.”
According to reports, the state grand jury hearings on the case started Monday. Jurors reviewed evidence related to the troopers’ use of force and them leaving bleeding and handcuffed Greene without providing aid. It was the first time the man’s death was ruled a homicide by a medical expert or that any charges arose from his death.
The troopers caught on body-camera video dragging Greene by his ankle cuffs, forcing him down by foot, and leaving him face down for more than nine minutes will face the most severe charges. Trooper Kory York was indicted on one count of negligent homicide, 10 counts of malfeasance in office, The Associated Press reports. York was previously suspended for 50 hours without pay as part of the state’s police internal investigation.
As a result of the charges, York and Trooper John Clary, who faces one count of obstruction of justice, “will be placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the legal proceedings,” Louisiana State Police Superintendent Col. Lamar Davis announced after the incident.
“These actions are inexcusable and have no place in professional public safety services,” Davis also said.
Fired Trooper Dakota Demoss and retired Capt. John Peters both face one count of obstruction of justice. Union Parish Deputy Chris Harpin was charged with three counts of malfeasance in office.
Body camera video shows Greene begging the troopers to stop.
“I’m your brother! I’m scared! I am scared,” he said.
Master Trooper Chris Hollingsworth, who bragged about beating “the ever-living f—-” out of Greene after the fatal arrest, died before he could face charges. Hollingsworth was seen on body-camera footage tasing Greene as soon as he ran up to the man’s car.
An internal investigator said the trooper did not give Greene a “chance to get out of the car” before he used force against the man. Hollingsworth died in a single-car crash into a guardrail six days after his internal affairs interview.
The initial coroner’s report did not mention Greene’s beating, and top law enforcement and state officials, including the governor, allegedly suppressed the body-camera footage.
An internal investigation was not launched until more than a year after the man’s death and after The Associated Press released the footage.
However, Hardin told the Atlanta Black Star Friday that the troopers have yet to be arrested and are still on paid administrative leave.
“It’s like they’re trying to soften the blow to these men in blue,” the slain man’s mother said.
“It’s been a roller coaster and with all the doors that keep being slammed in our face, but we’re like, bring it.”
The crimes of malfeasance and in office and negligent homicide could both lead to up to five years in prison and or a fine of no more than $5,000 each.
NAACP Baton Rouge president Eugene Collins said Thursday the “gravity of the charges were not what” they had hoped for, but it’s the first time in the state’s history that five troopers have been indicted. Collins believes it is a result of Greene’s family’s never-ending pursuit of justice.
“This has been a long journey, a long fight, and along this fight, I saw the strength of a mom fight through everything. Get on the road and make 10-hour trips, sometimes every week, to make sure nobody forgot her son’s name,” Collins said. “I saw his sisters continue to push on no matter what was going on and how many times they was worried about their momma getting on the road by herself.”
“But at the same time, I’m deeply saddened that it took all off this, even with a video of a Black man beaten to death on the side of the road,” he continued. “It should have never gotten here.”
After pressure from Greene’s family, state leaders launched a legislative injury that uncovered Edwards and his lawyers watched the video of the fatal beating before it was made public and kept it under wraps.
The Greene killing also spurred an overhaul of the state police agency.
“We have never stopped fighting and won’t stop for my son Ronnie,” Hardin said.
Atlanta Black Star staff writer Kavontae Smalls contributed to the reporting of this story.