BATON ROUGE, La. – Ronald Greene’s mother chastised Louisiana lawmakers Monday for not acting quickly enough to hold state troopers accountable for her son's deadly 2019 arrest, saying the Black motorist’s death at the end of a high-speed chase was a “murder” that's been covered up, sugarcoated and mired in bureaucracy.
“I’m so damn mad at the fact that I’m talking to people who have it in their power to make things happen," Mona Hardin said through tears. “I’ve been wandering around in a cloud of confusion just wondering: What does it take for the state of Louisiana to recognize the murder of a man? What does it take to get answers?”
Hardin's testimony underscored the tension building in Louisiana as federal and state prosecutors prepare to seek the first criminal charges in the case.
Troopers initially blamed Greene's death on a car crash on a rural roadside outside Monroe. But long-withheld body-camera video obtained and published by The Associated Press in May instead showed white troopers punching, stunning and dragging Greene as he pleaded for mercy and repeatedly wailed, “I'm scared!”
A federal civil rights probe into the case has since broadened to include the beatings of several other Black motorists and whether state police brass broke the law to protect troopers. Greene’s death was among at least a dozen cases over the past decade in which an AP investigation found state troopers or their bosses ignored or concealed evidence of beatings, deflected blame and impeded efforts to root out misconduct.
“All the dots are connected," Hardin told the Senate Select Committee on State Police Oversight. "Ronnie’s not the first. Ronnie’s not the last. But why do we have to sugarcoat the murder of a man just to get people off the hook?”
State police commanders earlier described several changes the agency enacted in the wake of Greene's death, including a new investigative unit that will probe uses of force by troopers.
“We don’t have the luxury of getting this wrong,” said Lt. Col. Kenny VanBuren.
But the ongoing criminal investigations prevented lawmakers from delving more deeply into what ranking officials knew and when they knew it in the wake of Greene's in-custody death — questions that remain at the heart of the federal inquiry.
Two state troopers invited to address the advisory panel — Kory York and John Clary — did not attend Monday's hearing, drawing an exasperated rebuke from State Sen. Cleo Fields, who grilled Col. Lamar Davis, the state police superintendent, about their “disrespectful” absence.
During one heated exchange, Fields raised the specter of summoning Clary from his home. “How far does he live from here?” the Democratic lawmaker asked.
York and Clary remain in the crosshairs of both federal and state prosecutors, and their attorneys advised them against appearing Monday.
Clary, the ranking officer at the scene of Greene's arrest, withheld a critical 30-minute body camera video of the in-custody death for more than two years, according to state police records obtained by AP.
York, meanwhile, can be seen on video dragging Greene by his ankle shackles and leaving the heavyset 49-year-old face down with his hands and feet restrained for more than nine minutes.
Lawmakers did hear from Sgt. Albert Paxton, the lead state police detective who pushed early on for state criminal charges to be brought in Greene's death but was rebuffed by his chain of command. His testimony was cut short, however, by a state police attorney who stopped Paxton from answering questions specific to the Greene case.
Fields, in a recent interview, said he “could not stomach” watching the footage of Greene's death in its entirety.
“The state police failed, and this, in my view, was a cover-up,” he told AP. “We need to not only offer an apology, we need to fix this. No mother should ever go through this in the future.”