DA: Case against troopers in Ronald Greene death will go to grand jury this year

Cover-up investigation remains stalled in legislature

By: - October 6, 2022 5:10 pm
Resident holds sign saying, "Stop killing black people"

The prosecutor handling the Ronald Greene death investigation said he will present the case to a grand jury before the end of 2022. (Photo credit: Wes Muller/Louisiana Illuminator)

More than three years have passed without any criminal charges filed against the Louisiana State Police troopers involved in Ronald Greene’s death, though the prosecutor handling the case said he still plans to present it to a grand jury.

District Attorney John Belton, who represents Union and Lincoln parishes, said in a phone interview Wednesday he will present the case to a grand jury before the end of the year. 

Belton said he is currently conducting a second review of the case files he received from the FBI and federal prosecutors earlier this year. He and his staff reviewed the file once previously and are now “crossing all our Ts and dotting all our Is,” he said. The next step will be to call witnesses, according to the DA.

Belton first announced his intent to pursue charges at an investigative hearing of a Louisiana committee in May. He said he felt “state and federal crimes had been committed” after watching video footage of the incident.

Greene, a 49-year-old Black man, died May 10, 2019, following a vehicle pursuit outside of Monroe. Body-camera footage of the incident shows Greene trying to get out of his vehicle and surrender to troopers. The footage then shows troopers beating, choking, stunning and dragging Greene before leaving him in a prone position for at least nine minutes. He was dead when paramedics arrived on the scene, according to testimony given to the House committee investigating the alleged cover-up.

State Police initially claimed Greene died from injuries sustained in the car wreck that ended the chase. The FBI conducted a subsequent review of the autopsy and ruled out the crash and an “agitated delirium” diagnosis from a medical examiner as factors causing his death. 

Critical testimony could be out of reach for Ronald Greene committee

Troopers failed to investigate the incident until Greene’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit on May 6, 2020, that eventually spurred news reports. Leadership with Louisiana State Police has been accused of attempting to conceal the body-camera footage. 

One trooper involved, Chris Hollingsworth, was later heard on an audio recording telling a colleague that he “beat the ever-living f–- out of” Greene, according to an Associated Press report. Hollingsworth later died in a single-vehicle crash in September 2020, hours after learning he would be fired for his role in the incident. Other troopers involved in the case are John Clary, Kory York and Dakota DeMoss.

The special House committee probing the alleged cover-up and paused its investigation as the 2022 legislative session ended. Rep. Edmond Jordan, D-Baton Rouge, who sits on the committee, said Wednesday that members plan to reconvene but nothing has been scheduled.

“The plan is to meet again,” Jordan said. “As to the schedule, I’m not sure but think that it should be before the end of the year.” 

When they last met in June, lawmakers were trying to find out what Gov. John Bel Edwards knew about the incident and when. They were also working to find out who at State Police may have misled medical examiners to conclude Greene died from the car accident and agitated delirium.

In April, Belton told lawmakers that federal prosecutors initially requested he wait for the conclusion of their investigation before pursuing state charges. After a federal indictment never came, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Louisiana’s Western District turned over its files to Belton and offered to assist him with resources, he said.

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Wesley Muller
Wesley Muller

Wes Muller traces his journalism roots back to 1997 when, at age 13, he built and launched a hyper-local news website for his New Orleans neighborhood. In the years since then, he has freelanced for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans and worked on staff at the Sun Herald in Biloxi, WAFB-9News CBS in Baton Rouge, and the Enterprise-Journal in McComb, Mississippi. He also taught English as an adjunct instructor at Baton Rouge Community College. Among his recognitions are McClatchy's National President's Award, the Associated Press Freedom of Information Award, and the Daniel M. Phillips Freedom of Information Award from the Mississippi Press Association. Muller is an alumnus of Jesuit High School and the University of New Orleans and is a veteran U.S. Army paratrooper. He lives in Louisiana with his wife and two sons.

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