Louisiana Legislature to review handling of Ronald Greene’s death in State Police custody
House Speaker: ‘Cryptic decisions and statements … have eroded public trust’
In this file photo from Aug. 28, 2020, family members of Ronald Greene listen to speakers as they gather at the Lincoln Memorial for the 57th anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech at the same location. . Greene died in police custody following a high-speed chase in Louisiana in 2019. (File photo Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
A select committee of Louisiana lawmakers will be formed “to review the handling, on all levels” of Ronald Greene’s death in State Police custody, House Speaker Clay Schexnayder said in a written statement Thursday morning.
“I look to the committee to provide answers to questions regarding the incident and its handling that would assist members, the family, and the public in understanding what happened and help the state move forward,” Schexnayder said.
The committee will meet at the conclusion of the current special redistricting session, according to the speaker’s statement. “Invited witnesses” will be announced soon.
Greene, a 49-year-old Black motorist from West Monroe, died after a vehicle pursuit that ended in a crash outside Monroe in May 2019. The Associated Press obtained text messages and emails that provided insight on information shared with Gov. John Bel Edwards about the incident. An AP report last month revealed a text message to the governor on the night of Greene’s death. It was from then-State Police Superintendent Col. Kevin Reeves and informed Edwards that an unnamed motorist became unresponsive after a “violent, lengthy struggle” with troopers.
Edwards made no public comment on the manner of Greene’s death until after police body camera video emerged and showed police using stun guns on Greene as well as beating and dragging him. Troopers have claimed Greene had died as a result of injuries from the car crash.
The governor has taken issue with reaction to the AP story from political opponents who have implied that he might have withheld information on the true nature of Greene’s death from the deceased’s family and the public. At a Feb. 1 press conference in response to the AP report, he called the allegations “simply and categorically false.“
“I welcome any and all legislative oversight and hope that this will be a productive, nonpartisan discussion of how to continue the ongoing reforms at Louisiana State Police so that what happened the night of Ronald Greene’s death never happens again,” Edwards said in a statement from his office Wednesday.
Edwards also met privately with members of the Legislative Black Caucus after the AP report was published. Caucus chairman Rep. Vincent Pierre, D-Lafayette, told reporters Monday he has confidence in the governor’s handling of the incident.
“I think the governor has done everything he possibly can to ensure that justice is served for the Greene family,” Pierre said. “I think further investigation will show that” … “I’m confident that what the governor has presented to us is exactly what transpired in those emails.”
The statement from Schexmayder says the select legislative committee is being appointed “based on new revelations in the case from the last week, including the concerning information shared in recent press articles and statements made by the Governor in his corresponding press conference.”
“The actions taken that night and the cryptic decisions and statements made every step of the way since then have eroded public trust. That trust can only be regained with a transparent and robust search for the whole truth in this matter,” Schexnayder said in the statement.
In his statement, the governor also said he awaits the outcome of a federal Department of Justice civil rights investigation into Greene’s death.
“I agree wholeheartedly with the Speaker that transparency is necessary in any investigation into this matter, whether that investigation is conducted by the USDOJ, the Senate Committee on State Police Oversight that has been conducting hearings on this matter, or this newly created House Select Committee,” Edwards said in the statement. “I am certain that any fair and impartial investigation will conclude that I made no attempt to impede or interfere with any investigation into Mr. Greene’s death. Any allegation to the contrary is simply not true.
House Speaker Pro Temp Tanner Magee, R-Houma, will chair the select committee. Its members are: Reps. Tony Bacala, R-Prairieville; Jason Hughes, D-New Orleans; Edmond Jordan, D-Baton Rouge; Mandie Landry, D-New Orleans; C. Denise Marcelle, D-Marcelle; Richard Nelson, R-Mandeville; and Debbie Villio, R-Kenner.
“The members of this select committee understand the seriousness of this issue and hope to bring some closure to the family and public at large in this matter,” Magee said in the statement.
The select committee members that @SchexnayderClay has picked for the Ronald Greene investigation have a lot of expertise in these matters. Retired law enforcement officer, prosecutor, attorney who works on police brutality and at least one #BlackLivesMatter activist. #lalege pic.twitter.com/05dEETG8z8
— Julie O’Donoghue (@JSODonoghue) February 10, 2022
Stay with the Louisiana Illuminator for more on this developing story.
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Read the complete statements from Schexnayder and the governor below:
From the House of Representatives
From Gov. John Bel Edwards’ office:
“I welcome any and all legislative oversight and hope that this will be a productive, nonpartisan discussion of how to continue the ongoing reforms at Louisiana State Police so that what happened the night of Ronald Greene’s death never happens again.
Like so many others, I am anxiously awaiting the outcome of the federal civil rights investigation into Mr. Greene’s death. I am hopeful that the outcome of this investigation, which has been pending for more than two years, will provide answers and justice for the Greene family.
I agree wholeheartedly with the Speaker that transparency is necessary in any investigation into this matter, whether that investigation is conducted by the USDOJ, the Senate Committee on State Police Oversight that has been conducting hearings on this matter, or this newly created House Select Committee. I am certain that any fair and impartial investigation will conclude that I made no attempt to impede or interfere with any investigation into Mr. Greene’s death. Any allegation to the contrary is simply not true.
I continue to pray for Mr. Greene’s family and it is my sincere hope the study by this committee into the events surrounding his death is an earnest investigation into the truth of what has happened since the early morning hours of May 10, 2019. They deserve no less.”
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