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Louisiana police unit investigated black driver arrests after Ronald Greene’s death

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana – The same Louisiana State Police unit whose soldiers stunned, punched and dragged Ronald Greene on video in a deadly 2019 arrest is now under an internal investigation by a secret panel to find out if its officers systematically target black motorists for abuse.

The panel, which has been confirmed to the Associated Press by four people familiar with it, was set up in response to Greene’s death as well as three other violent arrests of black men: one who was punched, knocked unconscious and hoisted to his feet by her braids of hair in a body camera video obtained by the AP, another who was beaten after being handcuffed, and yet another who was slammed 18 times with a flashlight.

“Every time I told him to stop he hit me again,” said Aaron Bowman, whose flashlight hit left him with three broken ribs, a broken jaw, a broken wrist and a gash. the head which required six staples to close. “I don’t want this to happen to anyone – not my worst enemy.”

This still from the body-worn camera video of Louisiana State Police Soldier Dakota DeMoss shows soldiers holding Ronald Greene before paramedics arrived on May 10, 2019, outside of Monroe, Louisiana.Louisiana State Police via AP

The panel began work a few weeks ago to review thousands of body camera videos over the past two years involving up to a dozen white soldiers, at least four of whom were involved in Greene’s arrest.

The review focuses on the Louisiana State Police Troop F, a 66-officer unit that patrols sprawling territory in the state’s northeast and has become notorious in recent years for alleged acts of brutality that have resulted in charges of crime against some of his horsemen.

“You would be naive to think it’s limited to two or three cases. That’s why you see this audit, which is a big undertaking of any agency, ”said Rafael Goyeneche, a former prosecutor who is chairman of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, a New Orleans-based watchdog group. “They need to identify these people and remove them from the organization.”

Besides the federal civil rights investigation into Greene’s death, the state police panel is the only known investigation into possible systemic abuse and racism by its soldiers.

Its seven members, who are state police officials, not only scan the videos for signs of excessive force, people told the AP, but also examine whether the soldiers showed any racist tendencies in their tracks. traffic checks and prosecutions, and if they mislabeled body camera videos, turned off their cameras, or used other means to hide evidence from internal investigators.

It is not known whether the panel has a deadline or whether it plans to expand the investigation to the other eight state police troops of 1,200 officers.

State police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Secrecy has permeated the Greene case from the start.

Shortly after Greene’s death on May 10, 2019, soldiers told his relatives he died in an accident following a chase on a rural road near Monroe. State Police later released a one-page statement saying soldiers struggled with Greene during his arrest and that he died on his way to hospital.

For more than two years, Louisiana officials under Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards have rejected repeated requests to show body camera video of Greene’s arrest.

But that changed last month after the AP released footage it obtained showing soldiers converging on Greene’s car, repeatedly shaking the unarmed 49-year-old man with stun guns, putting him in a choke, hitting him on the head and dragging him by the ankle chains. Greene can be heard apologizing to the officers, telling them he’s scared and moaning and looking for air.

A 30-minute clip, which a supervisor denied having for two years, shows soldiers ordering the oaf Greene to remain face down with his hands and feet tied for more than nine minutes – a use-of-force tactic that experts have criticized her as dangerous and likely to have restricted her breathing.

An autopsy report obtained by AP lists Greene’s cause of death as “cocaine-induced agitated delirium complicated by motor vehicle collision, physical struggle, inflicted head injury and restraint.”

No soldiers were charged during Greene’s arrest. Private Kory York, who was seen dragging Greene, was suspended without pay for 50 hours. Master Trooper Chris Hollingsworth, who has been recorded on his body cam boasting about “beating Greene’s still alive —“, learned he would be fired last year hours before he died in an accident. from car to one vehicle.

While none of the other beatings that prompted the wider F-Troop review resulted in fatalities, all of them led to felony charges against some of the soldiers involved. And like Greene, all of the suspects drove on their own, were unarmed, and didn’t seem to resist after the soldiers arrived.

State Police have not released any body camera video of these cases, but AP obtained footage of the arrest of Antonio Harris in May 2020, who walked away from a traffic stop and drove soldiers through the rural parish of Richland at a speed of over 150 mph before his car finally came to a halt with a rush tape.

He can clearly be seen in the video walking to the side of a cornfield, lying on the ground with his arms and legs outstretched before at least seven police officers converge.

Dakota DeMoss, a soldier involved in Greene’s arrest, can be seen punching Harris in the face and later, after being handcuffed, pulling him to his feet by his dreadlocks. Another soldier, George Harper, uses a fist reinforced by his flashlight to strike Harris on the head and threatens to “punish” him while Private Jacob Brown pulls the man’s hair.

An unidentified officer can also be seen in the footage shocking Harris with a stun gun.

“I hope you take action when we get to the p ——— jail,” Harper can be heard saying. “What’s wrong with you, stupid mother …”

Internal investigators found that the soldiers had produced “totally false” reports that Harris had resisted and that they were trying to cover up the existence of body camera video. The soldiers also exchanged 14 text messages strewn with “lol” and “haha” in which they bragged about the beatings.

“He’s gonna be in pain tomorrow, for sure,” Brown wrote. “It warms my heart to know that we could educate this young man.”

State police have arrested Brown, Harper and DeMoss on charges of mere battery and embezzlement in the Harris case.

Another beating took place in late May 2019 – 20 days after Greene’s death – when a deputy sheriff of Ouachita Parish attempted to arrest Bowman for a traffic violation one block from his house. Monroe’s home. The deputy reported that Bowman did not stop and continued down his driveway, where he was ordered out of his vehicle.

Brown, the soldier indicted in the Harris incident, reacted quickly to the arrest and, according to court documents, can be seen on his own body camera video hitting Bowman with a flashlight designed to smash the window of a car, hitting him 18 times while he was being handcuffed and not resisting.

“I thought I was going to die that night – I bled so much,” Bowman told the AP. “It’s hard to manage. I can’t function half the time. It’s just hard for me to think about now.

For months, state police were unaware of any footage of Bowman’s arrest because Brown misclassified it and documented no use of force, according to the reports. court records. Brown was charged with aggravated bodily harm and embezzlement.

Brown also faces charges for yet another beating of a black motorist – the July 2019 arrest of Morgan Blake, who was arrested for a traffic violation on Interstate 20 in Ouachita Parish.

The soldiers said Blake had 13 pounds of marijuana concealed in a locked compartment of the vehicle and was arrested. At one point, he complained that his handcuffs were too tight and Brown took him to the ground.

A body-worn camera captured Private Randall Dickerson hitting Blake five times and bringing him to his knees. State Police determined that Blake “was not resisting, escaping or being aggressive” and that the soldiers had not documented their use of force in any report.

Dickerson and Brown were charged with battery and embezzlement.

The Louisiana Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday called for a “top-down federal investigation” into the state’s police.

“It’s not a question of a few bad apples,” the group said, “it’s a systemic problem that demands a systemic and transparent response.”

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