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Video of Black man’s death in US varies sharply from police account

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This screen grab made from body-cam footage released by the Louisiana State Police on May 22, 2021 shows Ronald Greene's arrest in 2019./AFP
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May 24, 2021 - 11:27 AM

WASHINGTON — Initial claims by Louisiana authorities that a Black man stopped after a high-speed chase had died of crash-related injuries were undercut this week by newly released video showing police Tasing, dragging, choking and beating the man.

The latest controversy over a police-involved death began on May 10, 2019 when police in northern Louisiana tried to stop a car driven by Ronald Greene, a 49-year-old barber, for what they said was an unspecified traffic violation.

Greene’s relatives say police initially told them he died on impact when, during a chase, his car crashed into a tree.

But a written police report later said Greene survived the crash and struggled with troopers trying to arrest him. It said he died en route to a hospital.

Only later did Louisiana state police acknowledge that they had used force during the arrest, which they said was justified.

But body-cam and dash-cam video obtained by the Associated Press, as well as additional video later released by the state, tells a different story.

‘I’m afraid!’ 

The AP said the video it had obtained shows troopers, all of them white, opening Greene’s car, jolting him with a stun gun as he screams “I’m sorry” and “I’m afraid.” A trooper then wrestles him to the ground, places him in a chokehold and punches his face; another drags him by shackles on his ankles.

He is Tased again while lying on the ground in handcuffs.

Greene is then left moaning, facedown, for more than nine minutes while officers wipe blood from their hands.

In one body-cam video released later by state police, one trooper can be heard saying he had “choked him and everything else, trying to get him under control… we were still wrestling with him, trying to hold him down, ’cause he was spitting blood everywhere — and then, all of a sudden, he just went limp.”

Videos show multiple Taser prongs embedded in Greene’s skin.

Wrongful-death suit 

In May 2020, the family filed a wrongful-death suit, arguing that a police beating had left Greene “bloodied and in cardiac arrest.”

The suit alleges that there was no sign the front of Greene’s vehicle had struck anything or that his airbag had deployed. It said an independent autopsy had found severe head injuries that were inconsistent with a car crash.

Federal authorities opened an investigation of the death in September.

One of three troopers named in the family’s suit was suspended but returned to duty; another died in a car crash just hours, the AP said, after he was told he was being fired in connection with the Greene case; and a third was arrested in February in a separate case involving excessive force.

“There’s no words for how mad I am,” his mother, Mona Hardin, told CNN. “I’m disgusted. They took pleasure in torturing my son.”

Police-involved deaths have received intense scrutiny since the death a year ago of George Floyd in Minneapolis. In that case as well, video told a far different story from the initial police account.

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