La. governor criticizes police in deadly arrest of Black man

NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards on Tuesday denounced the deadly 2019 arrest of Ronald Greene as “regrettable,” criticizing the state troopers who repeatedly stunned, choked and punched the Black motorist, and also chiding officers who stood by but failed to intervene.

“I wouldn’t have been disturbed had I thought it was professional, had I thought those officers had performed as they should — they did not,” Edwards told reporters at the state Capitol in Baton Rouge, offering his most extensive remarks yet on the controversy.

“They don’t represent what we aspire to in the state of Louisiana, at the Louisiana State Police, especially once Mr. Greene was not just in custody but was restrained,” he added of the troopers involved. “They were not professional. They did not conduct themselves as a law enforcement officer should, and quite frankly I’m disappointed in officers who were on the scene who didn’t intervene as well. That evidences as lack of professionalism also.”

The Democratic governor’s remarks came nearly a week after The Associated Press began publishing previously unreleased body-camera footage that showed troopers converging on Greene’s car outside Monroe, Louisiana, after a high-speed chase, repeatedly jolting the 49-year-old unarmed man with stun guns, putting him in a chokehold, punching him in the head and dragging him by his ankle shackles.

“It is regrettable, it is unfortunate,” Edwards said, adding “we have implemented a number of changes with the goal of making sure this does not happen again.”

Col. Lamar Davis, the state police superintendent, said last week the agency had limited the use of chokeholds and stun guns and installed new leadership in the Monroe area after Greene’s death.

For months, Edwards refused repeated requests to release the footage of the May 2019 arrest, saying it would be “detrimental” to an ongoing federal civil rights investigation into Greene’s death. “I’m simply not going to sit here and characterize the video for you,” the governor said in October when it was shown privately to Greene’s family.

But in an about-face and under mounting public pressure, the governor on Friday said he “strongly” supported the state police’s decision to release all of the body camera footage in Greene’s arrest, even as state and federal investigations continue.

One of the videos, a 30-minute clip, came from the body camera of Lt. John Clary, a supervisor who for two years denied having any footage of the arrest, according to internal state police records obtained by the AP.

Clary has not faced discipline in the case. The trooper seen on video dragging Greene by his ankle shackles, Kory York, was suspended without pay for 50 hours. Another trooper who jolted Greene with a stun gun, Dakota DeMoss, faces termination after his arrest in a separate police pursuit last year in which he and two other troopers allegedly used excessive force.

Chris Hollingsworth, a trooper seen striking and repeatedly stunning Greene in the footage, was recorded after Greene’s arrest saying that “he beat the ever-living f— out of” the man. Hollingsworth died in a single-vehicle highway crash last year just hours after he learned he would be fired for his role in the Greene case.

Clary’s video shows troopers ordering the heavyset, 49-year-old Greene to remain facedown on the ground with his hands and feet restrained for more than nine minutes — a tactic use-of-force experts criticized as dangerous and likely to have restricted his breathing.

The previously concealed video, which has since been turned over to the FBI, is among several anomalies in the law enforcement response to Greene’s death. Troopers initially told Greene’s family he died in a car crash, and later the state police issued a brief statement acknowledging there was a struggle with officers and that Greene died on the way to the hospital. There was no mention made of any use of force by troopers.

Associated Press writer Melinda Deslatte contributed reporting from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.