Gerald Herbert / AP
NEW ORLEANS – A re-examined autopsy ordered by the FBI in the deadly 2019 arrest of Ronald Greene has dismissed Louisiana State Police’s claim that a car crash caused his fatal injuries, reducing the prosecutors’ attention to soldiers seen on body cam video hitting, stunning and dragging the black motorist.
The unusual second look at what killed Greene confirmed what his family suspected as they saw his bruised and battered corpse and his car with only slight damage: a minor crash at the end of a high-speed chase had nothing to do with his death.
The FBI this week received the new forensic study it commissioned in light of camera footage of the long-buried body, data from the vehicle’s black box, and other evidence that police from the State has deductions from Greene’s original autopsy. The examination, which did not involve another examination of the body, attributes Greene’s death to a range of factors, including soldiers hitting the 49-year-old man on the head, holding him for a long time and his cocaine use.
The new exam notably removes the crash and “excited delirium” from the list of causes for Greene’s original autopsy, according to a person familiar with the results who was not authorized to discuss the federal investigation and spoke to Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
It also answers a key unanswered question from the initial autopsy, namely whether the accident that did not deploy the airbag in Greene’s car was severe enough to cause a fractured breastbone and rupture of the aorta. The re-examination determined that these injuries were most likely the result of CPR and other rescue efforts by first responders, the person familiar with the results said.
Family photo via AP
It was still not clear whether the new autopsy would prompt the Union Parish coroner to change Greene’s mode of death from accidental to homicide, which could affect the charges against state and federal prosecutors.
Greene’s mother, Mona Hardin, said she hoped the new report would bring the case closer to justice “so that I can put my son to rest”, adding that she had not yet buried his cremated remains. . “This thing was so crazy. Nobody really grieve.”
The new autopsy report comes as federal prosecutors are in the final stages of a two-year civil rights investigation that began investigating Greene’s death, but has since expanded to examine passages to tobacco from several other black motorists and whether senior officers obstructed justice to protect the soldiers. possible prosecutions.
Rafael Goyeneche, a former prosecutor who heads the Metropolitan Crime Commission, a New Orleans-based watchdog group, said the new cause of death makes it even more likely that prosecutors will lay serious charges. “It pulls the rug out from under the defense claim that the crash caused his death and that the beatings were not that bad,” he said.
A Louisiana State Police spokesperson said the agency “has not received any further information about the ongoing federal investigation” but continues to cooperate. A spokesperson for the US Department of Justice declined to speak of an ongoing investigation, but added that if the evidence reveals violations of the law, the department “will take all appropriate measures.”
On May 10, 2019, Greene’s death occurred after he failed to stop for a traffic violation and led soldiers in a nighttime chase through northern Louisiana at a speed exceeding 115 mph, ending along a rural road near Monroe. State Police first told Greene’s family that he died after crashing into a tree, a story the Union Parish coroner vowed to write in an official report, which describes Greene’s death as a car crash and makes no mention of a confrontation with soldiers.
After authorities refused for more than two years to release the soldiers’ body camera video, the PA obtained it and released it this spring, showing white soldiers converging on Greene before he could even get out of the room. his car, stunning him and repeatedly hitting him as he appears. to surrender and moaned repeatedly: “I am your brother!” I am scared ! I am scared ! A soldier can later be seen dragging Fat Greene by his ankle chains and he is left on his stomach and face down for over nine minutes before eventually going limp.
Yet even after AP posted the video of Greene’s violent arrest, state officials and soldiers’ advocates repeated the crash theory, with Governor John Bel Edwards pitching it in September. .
“Could the problem be if he died from injuries sustained in the crash?” Edwards, a Democrat, said on a radio show. “Obviously, he did not die in the crash himself because he was still alive when the soldiers engaged with him. But what was the cause of death? I don’t know if that happened. been falsely described. “
Edwards went on to say that the soldiers’ actions were “criminal” but that they caused Greene’s death was under investigation and “I’m not going to talk about it.”
An attorney for the soldiers involved in Greene’s arrest told a court in July that the accident killed him.
“At trial, the defendants will present scientific evidence that Mr. Greene’s death was caused by blunt chest trauma related to an accident resulting in a broken sternum and ruptured aorta,” wrote P. Scott Wolleson in a case in a civil lawsuit brought by Greene’s. family.
Greene’s was among a dozen cases over the past decade in which a PA investigation found soldiers or their bosses ignoring or covering up evidence of beatings, deflecting blame and hampering efforts to eliminate mistakes. Dozens of current and former soldiers said they performed at an agency with a culture of impunity, nepotism and, in some cases, outright racism.
Federal investigators are also reviewing the actions of police commanders, including pressuring their own detectives to fail to arrest the soldier who admitted to hitting Greene in the head with a flashlight and was overheard on his body cam video bragging to a coworker that he “beat the goddamn eternal out of him.”
That soldier, Chris Hollingsworth, died last year in a single vehicle crash hours after learning he would be fired for his role in the Greene case.
Speaking to investigators shortly before his death, Hollingsworth sought to justify his flashlight beating on Greene in part because the man “had no apparent injuries” after the crash and “could have done n ‘no matter what once my grip has been broken off him.’