MONROE, La. – Three years ago, as a beaten and bloodied Ronald Greene breathed his last on a rural roadside, his death in the custody of the Louisiana State Police seemed doomed to obscurity.
Family members were told – wrongly – that he died in a car accident after a high-speed chase. Body camera footage of white soldiers drugging, beating and dragging the black motorist remained so secret it was withheld from even his initial autopsy.
The story that state police had doggedly pushed for months about Greene’s death didn’t stand up, unraveled by graphic footage released by The Associated Press last year that contradicted police reports and fueled claims of a cover-up.
While Greene’s May 10, 2019 death has drawn controversy from Louisiana’s top law enforcement agency, it remains an open wound for a grieving family still seeking justice. Despite a long state and federal criminal investigation, no charges have been filed in the case.
“How can you turn your back on a murder?” Mona Hardin, Greene’s mother, said in an emotional interview Tuesday. “It’s an ugly, lurking evil.”
For months, especially after AP released the bodycam video last spring, the question was not whether the Justice Department would press charges, but how many soldiers would be charged. The scope of the investigation was expanded to include whether state police officers were obstructing justice to protect the soldiers.
But after months of interviews, grand jury testimonies and a re-ordered autopsy, federal prosecutors are increasingly skeptical about bringing a successful civil rights case against one of the cops caught on camera abusing Greene, so familiar with the investigation People who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing case.
A key point of contention has been whether federal agencies can prove that soldiers acted “willfully” — a key component of federal civil rights lawsuit agencies considering. To do so, the sources said, investigators tried to show that Greene was also pepper sprayed after he was already in custody.
However, even after the FBI improved the body camera video, federal authorities questioned whether the footage proved Greene was pepper sprayed.
The delays were compounded by the fact that federal prosecutors had asked local District Attorney John Belton to wait until the federal investigation was complete before filing state charges.
But last month federal prosecutors reversed course and said they would not oppose a prosecutor. Belton said a state grand jury is expected to begin hearing evidence soon.
Separately, a state Legislative Committee investigating a possible cover-up in the Greene case prepares for a showdown over a subpoena against the former Louisiana State Police Chief.
On Wednesday, the bipartisan committee will hold a first vote to convict former Colonel Kevin Reeves for refusing to release the full three volumes of a diary he kept while running the agency. Reeves’ attorney delivered 11 handwritten pages to the committee last week, but claims the rest had nothing to do with Greene and does not need to be handed over.
Reeves’ journal entries within days of Greene’s death showed an awareness of the possible consequences. “Recognizing there is a problem – needs to be addressed immediately,” Reeves wrote in a section that listed a number of possible steps, including suspending or furloughing soldiers and opening an internal investigation into the case.
But 462 days would elapse before state police launched an internal investigation into the soldiers involved, including one who boasted of “knocking the ever-living f—aus” out of Greene. Reeves, who called Greene’s death “horrifying but righteous,” resigned amid criticism in late 2020.
If the committee votes to proceed with a contempt proceeding against Reeves, the matter would then be escalated to another committee and then to the entire State House, where a contempt vote would allow the legislature to start the court process to compel Reeves to commit the to comply with the summons.
The committee was formed in response to an AP report that found Reeves informed Gov. John Bel Edwards within hours that soldiers who arrested Greene were engaged in a “violent, protracted struggle.” But the Democrat remained mostly silent on the case for two years as state cops continued to push the car accident theory.
Lawmakers have said they intend to investigate what Edwards knew about the case and when he knew it, but no one on his staff has been called to testify.
Hardin and other family members planned to gather Tuesday night for a vigil in the quiet community near Monroe where Greene died and pray that their long wait for justice will finally be over.
“We just have to keep going,” she said. “That’s all we can do.”
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https://www.local10.com/news/national/2022/05/10/3-years-on-ronald-greenes-family-still-waiting-for-justice/ Three years later, Ronald Greene’s family is still waiting for justice