MONROE, La. – As Ronald Greene lay dying, face-down on the ground with his hands cuffed behind his back, the state troopers used disinfecting wipes to clean his blood from their hands and faces.
“I hope this guy ain’t got f—ing AIDS,” one trooper said angrily as Greene, bloody and battered, cried out in pain and fear.
The trooper’s remark is part of a 46-minute recording of body camera footage obtained by The Associated Press this week, more than two years after Greene’s death following an attempted traffic stop. The case has gained national attention as cities across the U.S. deal with demonstrations against police brutality and systemic racism in the justice system.
Greene was Black. The troopers involved in his death are white.
Greene, 49, died May 10, 2019, after leading Louisiana state troopers on a high-speed chase near Monroe. He was unarmed when the troopers repeatedly stunned him with a Taser, punched him in the face and head and dragged him, face-first, across the asphalt by the shackles they’d used to bind his feet.
“They murdered him,” Greene’s mother, Mona Hardin, said Wednesday. “The way it happened, he didn’t stand a chance. Ronnie didn’t stand a chance.
“He wasn’t going to live to tell it; they made sure of that.”
Andrew Scott, a former police chief in Boca Raton, Florida, who now serves as a use-of-force expert, told the AP that dragging Greene by the shackles was “malicious, sadistic (and) completely unnecessary” because they’d already gotten Greene handcuffed and under control.
“That should never have never happened,” Scott said. “You’ve got the guy completely compromised. He’s not hurting anybody.”
Louisiana State Police officials initially told Greene’s family, who last year filed a federal lawsuit in his death, that he’d died on impact after crashing his car into a tree during the chase.
Post-mortem photos and pictures of his car, however, showed damage inconsistent with his injuries.
Greene’s autopsy also showed that he had neither drugs nor alcohol in his system, though authorities had initially said he was intoxicated at the time of his death.
According to his family’s lawsuit, the autopsy found “multiple signs of recent trauma, blunt force injuries to the head and face, facial lacerations, facial abrasions, facial contusions, scalp lacerations, blunt force injuries to the extremities and abrasions and contusions over the left and right knees.”
Story ‘does not add up’
The footage made public this week shows for the first time some of what really took place in the moments prior to Greene’s death, the AP reported. It shows Greene was bruised and bleeding as he was lifted, unresponsive, onto a gurney and loaded into an ambulance.
He died on the way to Glennwood Regional Medical Center, authorities said.
An emergency room doctor at Glennwood confirmed that police officials had lied to Greene’s family about how he died, their lawsuit stated.
“Upon obtaining more history from different law enforcement personnel, history seems to be disjointed and does not add up,” the doctor stated, according to the complaint. “Different versions are present.”
Despite telling Greene’s family that he was killed on impact, “law enforcement state to me that patient got out of the car and was running and involved in a fight and struggle with them where he was tased three times,” the doctor said.
State police officials later released a single-page statement acknowledging there was a struggle between Greene and the troopers, according to the AP.
Read the Greene family’s lawsuit against Louisiana state troopers below.
The post-mortem images, along with officials’ refusal to release the body camera footage, prompted allegations of a cover-up. The Union Parish Coroner’s Office ruled Greene’s death accidental, attributing it to cardiac arrest caused by the car crash.
The report made no mention of the altercation with the troopers, the AP reported.
The wire service reported that state police officials initially argued that the troopers’ use of force was “awful but lawful” and failed to initiate an internal investigation until more than a year after Greene died.
His death has since become the subject of a federal civil rights investigation.
‘I’m scared! I’m just scared!’
The fatal encounter began when Greene, a barber, failed to stop when a trooper attempted to pull him over for an apparent traffic violation. After a chase that topped out at speeds of more than 115 mph, he crashed on a rural road about 30 miles south of the Arkansas state line.
Greene started frantically apologizing for the chase as soon as it came to an end, according to the footage from Trooper Dakota DeMoss’ camera. The AP reported that not all the troopers had activated their body cameras that morning.
DeMoss and Master Trooper Chris Hollingsworth were the first to get to Greene’s vehicle, according to the recording. DeMoss was the trooper who initiated the traffic stop of Greene that morning.
Hollingsworth, who has since died in a crash of his own, could be seen using a Taser on Greene through the SUV’s driver’s side window. The first shock came within seconds of the vehicles coming to a stop.
Greene appeared to raise his hands in surrender. He could be heard saying, “OK, OK, I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”
Greene, who wore shorts and a green T-shirt, appeared frightened.
“I’m scared! I’m just scared!” he cried as he was repeatedly shocked.
After Greene exited the car from the passenger side, a trooper took him to the ground and placed him in a chokehold. As he punched Greene repeatedly in the face, another trooper could be heard calling him a “stupid mother(expletive).”
The jolts from the stun gun continued.
“Put your hands behind your back, (expletive),” one trooper said.
“You’re about to get it again if you don’t put your (expletive) hands behind your back,” another stated.
Once Greene was cuffed and his ankles were shackled, Master Trooper Kory York grabbed him by the leg shackles and dragged him across the ground on his stomach, despite the fact he was no longer resisting.
“You’re gonna lay on your (expletive) belly like I told you!” York screamed at him.
Civil rights attorney Lee Merritt, who is representing Greene’s family, told the AP 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.
Discipline and a death
In February, York was suspended without pay for 50 hours for dragging Greene and for deactivating his body camera before arriving at the scene, the AP reported.
WBRZ in Baton Rouge reported that DeMoss, 28, was arrested in February and charged with battery and malfeasance in office in connection with a May 2020 arrest in Franklin Parish. Like Greene, Antonio Harris was allegedly beaten after a chase that ended in a crash.
Harris, 29, immediately surrendered and “laid face down on the ground and extended his arms away from his body and his legs spread apart,” an internal state police probe found.
DeMoss and two other troopers are accused of turning off their body cameras and beating Harris before taking him into custody. They then wrote “wholly untrue” incident reports alleging Harris had resisted and continued trying to flee from them, the AP reported.
The troopers then exchanged more than a dozen text messages in which they bragged about what they’d done.
DeMoss wrote that Harris was “still digesting that ass whoopin,” the investigation found.
“He gonna be sore tomorrow for sure,” wrote Trooper Jacob Brown, who later resigned. “Warms my heart knowing we could educate that young man.”
It was not clear Thursday if DeMoss has been disciplined in connection with Greene’s death.
Hollingsworth died Sept. 21 following a single-vehicle crash that took place hours after he learned he was being fired for his role in Greene’s death. In body camera audio leaked last fall, Hollingsworth spoke bluntly about his participation in Greene’s beating.
“I beat the ever-living (expletive) out of him, choked him and everything else trying to get him under control,” Hollingsworth said in the clip, which was posted on Twitter by Merritt. “He was spitting blood everywhere, and all of a sudden, he just went limp.”
Listen to the audio in the tweet below. Warning: The tweet contains explicit language and graphic images.
Hardin described being haunted by the images of her son dying, by the screams that echoed from the video.
“I can be driving down the road and I’ll see my son’s body slumped over, breathing, gasping, asking for help,” she told the AP.
The family’s lawsuit seeks $1 million in damages.