Ronald Greene killing: Louisiana prosecutor gets green light from feds to pursue charges in his death

Testifying before a special committee of the Louisiana State Legislature that is investigating Greene’s 2019 death, District Attorney John Belton said a “criminal act” occurred and that he plans to “move quickly” to convene a grand jury. .

Speaking to CNN after the committee hearing adjourned, Belton reiterated his position, saying, “I have already said that crimes have been committed.”

The US Attorney’s Office asked Belton not to pursue charges while the Justice Department investigated Greene’s death for civil rights violations, he said. That changed last week when Belton said he received a call from the federal prosecutor now in charge of the case, Brandon Brown, telling him he could move forward with a local investigation that will take place at the same time as the federal investigation.

The Justice Department declined to comment.

Belton did not give a timeline for when a local investigation would begin, but told lawmakers he hopes to “act quickly.”

Greene died on May 10, 2019, while in the custody of the Louisiana State Police after a police pursuit.

Body camera footage of the incident shows state troopers repeatedly violently attacking, beating and dragging Greene. The family filed a lawsuit, accusing the agency of trying to cover up how Greene died. Greene’s family said they were initially told he died in a car accident, but coroners later ruled out the car accident as the cause of his death.

The police officers involved maintained that Greene’s death “was caused by crash-related blunt force trauma to the chest that resulted in a fractured sternum and ruptured aorta,” and argued that they had to use force to restrain him “because of his own personal safety and for the safety of the public,” according to court documents.

Asked by CNN if anyone from the Louisiana State Police tried to dissuade him from pressing charges, the prosecutor simply said, “No.” Asked to characterize what he saw in the body camera footage of Greene’s encounter with police, Belton called the video “disturbing.”

During an exchange with lawmakers, Belton said his office is “looking at everything” as part of its investigation, including possible obstruction of justice charges.

Committee representatives, including state representatives Edmond Jordan and C. Denise Marcelle, told CNN the committee’s goal was to find out what happened. The committee has been meeting weekly since early March and plans to continue hearing testimony during the legislative session, which concludes the first week of June.

What we know about the case

According to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Greene’s family, the family was initially told that Greene died on impact during the crash. A Glenwood Medical Center report listed the primary cause of death as cardiac arrest and described an “unspecified injury” to Greene’s head. Post-mortem photos posted on the NAACP Baton Rouge Facebook page showed large abrasions on Greene’s skull and bruises on his cheeks.

A report from the Louisiana State Police Criminal Investigations Division investigation into Greene’s death in custody cited a “struggle” with state police.

“Shortly thereafter, Greene became unresponsive and was transported to Glenwood Medical Center by Pafford Medical Service,” the report says.

Greene died on the way to the medical center, according to the LSP report.

CNN’s Steve Almasy contributed to this report.

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