In perhaps the strongest evidence yet of an attempted cover-up in the deadly 2019 arrest of Ronald Greene, the ranking Louisiana State Police officer at the scene told internal investigators that the Black man was still a threat to flee after he was shackled, and he denied the existence of his own body camera video for nearly two years until it emerged just last month.
New state police documents obtained by The Associated Press show numerous inconsistencies between Lt. John Clary’s statements to detectives and the body camera footage he denied having. They add to growing evidence of obfuscation in Greene’s death, which the white troopers initially blamed on a car crash at the end of a high-speed chase and is now the subject of a federal civil rights investigation.
The case has drawn national attention since last week, when the AP began publishing graphic body camera videos that showed troopers repeatedly jolting Greene with stun guns, putting him in a chokehold, punching him and dragging him by his ankle shackles. Like George Floyd’s death a year ago, it once again highlighted the importance of video as key evidence in police misconduct cases.
“Video doesn’t lie, and the best way to protect the integrity of law enforcement agencies is with body camera footage,” said Rafael Goyeneche, a former prosecutor who is president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, a New Orleans-based watchdog group.
But Clary, the highest-ranking officer among at least six state troopers at the scene of Greene’s May 10, 2019, arrest, told investigators later that day that he had no body camera footage of the incident — a statement proven to be untrue when his 30-minute body camera video of the arrest emerged last month.
Clary, who arrived at the scene just seconds after troopers stunned, choked and punched Greene to get him into handcuffs, told investigators that Greene “was still, yelling and screaming ... and he was still resisting, even though he was handcuffed. He was still trying to get away and was not cooperating.”
“The video evidence in this case does not show Greene screaming, resisting or trying to get away,” Detective Albert Paxton wrote in the new report. “The only screams revealed by the video were when Greene responded to force applied to him.”
The report added that Clary’s own video, published last week by the AP and later released by the state, shows Greene “lying on the ground, face down, handcuffed behind his back, leg shackles on his ankles, uttering the phrases, ‘I’m sorry’, or ‘I’m scared’ or ‘Yes sir’ or ‘Okay.”’
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. Greene can be seen on Clary’s footage struggling to prop himself up on his side.
“Don’t you turn over! Lay on your belly! Lay on your belly!” Trooper Kory York yells before briefly dragging Greene by the chain that connects his ankle shackles.
“Lt. Clary’s video clearly shows Greene to be suffering,” Paxton wrote in the new report, adding that the handcuffed man can be heard “gasping for air.”
Though what happens to Greene next cannot be seen on the video, investigators wrote that “Greene’s eyes are squeezed shut as he shakes his head back and forth moaning in pain, movements consistent with having been sprayed in the face with (pepper) spray.”
The records noted that around this time Trooper York asked Greene if he has his attention now and a local deputy assisting in the arrest added, “Yeah, that sh-- hurts, doesn’t’ it?”
Another false statement noted in the report was when Clary told investigators that his troopers sat Greene up and “immediately held his head up so he could get a clear airway.”
Clary’s video, however, showed troopers saying they didn’t want to sit Greene up because they were afraid he would spit blood on them.
“Then don’t do that,” Clary tells them.
Even after Greene became unresponsive and troopers sat him up, his head was slumped down on his chest and they did not make a move to lift his head to make a clear airway for nearly six minutes.
“The officers have the duty and obligation to ensure that he is capable of breathing ... and they chose not to do that,” said Andrew Scott, a former Boca Raton, Florida, police chief who testifies as an expert in use-of-force cases.
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