Federal authorities have opened an investigation into the in-custody death of a Black man who died last year after a car chase with Louisiana State Police. State troopers claim that 49-year-old Ronald Greene passed away after crashing his car into a tree while cops pursued him over an alleged unspecified traffic violation. However, State Police are now admitting there was a “struggle” with Greene before his death and have refused to release body camera footage of the incident.
Greene’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit earlier this year accusing state troopers of leaving him “beaten, bloodied and in cardiac arrest.” The suit alleges officers “brutalized” Greene and have covered up the true cause of his death.
The suit draws from witness accounts of the incident, who have claimed troopers pinned Greene down on the ground and used a stun gun on him. Speaking with the Associated Press, Green’s mother Mona Hardin said her family has been unable to grieve because of the many unanswered questions about her son’s death.
“This has gutted our family. How do people live with themselves after doing something like this?” she said, remembering Greene as a barber with a “giving spirit.”
Greene’s death was ruled an accident by the Union Parish coroner and attributed to cardiac arrest. Troopers claimed that he refused to pull over during a traffic stop and “a pursuit ensued.” The police report adds that “Greene was taken into custody after resisting arrest and a struggle with Troopers” and says he “became unresponsive” and died on the way to the hospital.
“The physical evidence we’ve been able to review is inconsistent with the manner of death that they’ve described,” Greene’s family’s lawyer, Lee Merritt, told AP.
The suit further alleges that Greene’s car “did not make impact with a tree and [that] his airbag did not deploy.” His family does not believe his injuries sustained in the crash would have been fatal and claims he “could walk, speak and otherwise function in a healthy manner after the crash.” Greene’s autopsy found cuts on his head and face consistent with “blunt-force injuries.”
“Obviously the body cam footage is critical,” another attorney on the family’ legal team added.
Local prosecutors declined to charge the officers involved in Greene’s death and instead referred the case to the U.S. Justice Department for a civil rights investigation. State Police spokesman Capt. Chavez Cammon has only said that the department is “cooperating with federal officials” and conducting their own internal investigation. State police are reportedly investigating the possibility that one of the troopers improperly turned off their body camera during the incident with Greene.