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Five years later, the federal government remains silent on the fatal arrest of a black motorist

State police initially blamed the 49-year-old’s death on a crash following a high-speed pursuit for a traffic violation, an explanation called into question by photos of the body of Greene on a stretcher showing his bruised and battered face, with a hospital report noting he had two stun gun points in his back and his SUV had only minor damage.

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) — Mona Hardin has waited five long years for an outcome in the federal investigation into her son’s fatal arrest by Louisiana State Police troopers, an anguish made even worse by the fact that almost every other major civil rights case during that time has surpassed it.

It took only a few months for Tire Nichols, who was beaten to death last year, to result in federal charges against five Memphis police officers. A half-dozen white Mississippi lawmen have been convicted by the federal government for the torture of two black suspects last year. And federal prosecutors have long brought swift charges in the killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky.

Each of these cases occurred months or years after the death of Ronald Greene in north Louisiana on May 10, 2019, which sparked national outrage after the Associated Press published body camera video long-deleted body image showing white soldiers converging on the black motorist before stunning him. , beating and dragging him as he wailed, “I’m scared!”

Yet a half-decade after Greene’s violent death, the federal investigation remains open and unresolved, with no end in sight. And Hardin says she feels ghosted and forgotten by a Justice Department that no longer even answers her calls.

“Where is Ronald Greene’s justice?” asked Hardin, who refuses to bury her son’s cremated remains until she gets some accountability. “I still have my boy in this urn, and that hurts me more than anything. We didn’t mourn the loss of Ronnie because we fought.

Justice Department spokeswoman Aryele Bradford said the investigation was still ongoing and declined to provide further details.

Under federal law, no statute of limitations applies to possible civil rights charges in this case because Greene’s arrest was fatal. But prosecutors wavered for years about whether to file an indictment, having all but assured Greene’s family at the start that a full FBI investigation would result in charges of some sort.

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A federal prosecution seemed so imminent in 2022 that a state police supervisor told AP he expected to be charged. By that time, the FBI had shifted its focus from the officers who left Greene handcuffed and face down for more than nine minutes to the State Police officers suspected of obstructing justice by deleting video evidence, canceling a detective’s recommendation to arrest a police officer and pressuring a state prosecutor.

Meanwhile, federal prosecutors have asked local prosecutor John Belton not to file charges until the federal investigation is complete. They then reversed course, and in late 2022 a state grand jury indicted five police officers on charges ranging from negligent homicide to malfeasance. Charges remain against just two, with a trial scheduled for later this year for a senior soldier seen on video dragging Greene face down by the chains on his ankles.

State police initially blamed the 49-year-old’s death on a crash following a high-speed pursuit for a traffic violation, an explanation called into question by photos of the body of Greene on a stretcher showing his bruised and battered face, with a hospital report noting he had two stun gun points in his back and his SUV had only minor damage. Even the emergency room doctor questioned the officers’ initial account of the accident, writing in his notes, “This doesn’t add up.”

All that changed two years later when AP published graphic video of Greene’s final moments, showing him being swarmed by soldiers even as he appeared to raise his hands, beg for mercy and moan, “OK, OK. I’m sorry” and “I’m your brother!” I am scared! I’m scared!” The officers shook Greene several times with stun guns before he could even get out of the car, with one of them tackling him to the ground, choking him and hitting him in the Another called him a “stupid mother——.” They then ordered the chained Greene to remain face down, even as he struggled to stand up on his side.

A re-examined autopsy ordered by the FBI finally debunked the accident account and listed “prone restraint” among other factors contributing to Greene’s death, including neck compression, physical struggle and consumption of cocaine.

Greene’s family members weren’t the only ones confused by the pace of the federal investigation. Then-Gov. John Bel Edwards expressed private frustration over the lack of answers during a closed-door meeting with state lawmakers, saying he believed from the first time he saw the video, in late 2020, that Greene’s treatment was criminal and racist.

“Are they ever going to come out and have a charge? the Democratic governor asked, as the AP reported that he was informed hours after Greene’s death that the soldiers had engaged in a “violent and prolonged struggle.”

Ronald Greene - theGrio.comRonald Greene - theGrio.com

Ronald Greene, 49, was brutally beaten, tased and choked by police officers following a high-speed chase in Louisiana for a non-specific traffic violation in May 2019. State Troopers Louisiana initially said Greene died in a car crash, but body camera footage from May 2021 showed the officers beating Greene to death. (PhotoCred: Family photo via AP)

Alanah Odoms, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana, said “failure to pursue federal charges in this case would undermine public confidence in the federal government’s commitment to upholding the rule of law.”

Perhaps the most significant obstacle to federal charges was the untimely death of Chris Hollingsworth, the trooper who was seen on video hitting Greene repeatedly in the head with a flashlight and was later recorded by his own body camera calling a fellow officer and saying, “I beat him to death.” Hollingsworth died in a high-speed single-vehicle crash in 2020 hours after learning he would be fired for his actions in Greene’s death.

Another major sticking point was whether prosecutors could prove that the troopers acted “willfully” in abusing Greene – a key part of the civil rights charges that has complicated such prosecutions across the country. The FBI even enhanced video of the arrest in an ultimately inconclusive attempt to determine whether he had been pepper-sprayed after his arrest, focusing on an exchange in which a deputy said mockingly: “It hurts, doesn’t it?” »

The Justice Department also conducted an extensive investigation into Louisiana State Police’s use of force and whether they engage in “racist policing activities.” The department launched this “pattern or practice” investigation nearly two years ago, following an AP investigation that found Greene’s arrest was one of at least a dozen cases in which soldiers or their bosses ignored or covered up evidence of beatings, deflected blame, and obstructed efforts to eradicate misconduct.

The federal wrongful death lawsuit that Greene’s family filed four years ago to seek damages from the officers, who have denied any wrongdoing, is also still ongoing. The civil case was stayed pending further criminal proceedings.

Hardin said it’s high time for the state of Louisiana to make amends.

“It all started with a lie: We were told Ronnie had been killed in a car accident,” she said. “It was a mistake and it must be corrected. I will go to my grave knowing that I did everything I could to get justice for Ronnie.

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