A new autopsy rejects the theory put forth by the Louisiana State police that Ronald Greene died from injuries due to a car crash, NPR reports.
According to the new forensic review obtained by the FBI, the cause of Greene’s death was a series of factors including troopers striking him repeatedly in the head, restraining him at length, and his use of cocaine. The minor car cash was not a contributing factor in his death.
The new review not only removes the crash but also the “agitated delirium” from the list of causes in Greene’s original autopsy.
Mona Hardin, Greene’s mother, hopes that the new report brings the case closer to justice “so I can put my son to rest,” adding that she has yet to bury his cremated remains. “This thing has been so crazy. No one has properly grieved.”
Rafael Goyeneche, a former prosecutor who now heads the Metropolitan Crime Commission, noted that the new cause of death makes it even more likely prosecutors will bring serious charges against the state troopers.
“This yanks the rug from under the defense claim that the accident caused his death and that the beatings weren’t that severe,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Louisiana State Police said the agency “has been provided no further information on the ongoing federal investigation” but continues to cooperate. A U.S. Justice Department spokesperson declined to speak about an ongoing investigation but added that if the evidence reveals violations of the law, the department will “take all appropriate action.”
On May 10, 2019, after failing to stop for a traffic violation, Greene led troopers on a high-speed chase in northern Louisiana. Initially, the authorities told Greene’s family that he died after crashing into a tree. In an official report, the Union Parish coroner described Greene’s death as a motor vehicle accident without mentioning his encounter with state troopers.
For more than two years, the authorities refused to release the troopers’ body camera video but the Associated Press obtained and published it this spring, showing troopers assaulting Greene before he can even get out of his car.
The footage shows officers repeatedly stunning and punching Greene as he surrenders saying, “I’m your brother! I’m scared! I’m scared!” Later in the video, a trooper can be seen dragging Greene by his ankle shackles, leaving him face down for over nine minutes until he loses his bodily functions.
In the aftermath of the AP publishing the video of Greene’s violent arrest, state officials and advocates for the troopers continued to claim that the crash was the reason for Greene’s death. Gov. John Bel Edwards shared the theory of the crash back in September.
“The issue would be did he die from injuries sustained in the accident?” Edwards, a Democrat, said on a radio program. “Obviously, he didn’t die in the accident itself because he was still alive when the troopers were engaging with him. But what was the cause of death? I don’t know that that was falsely portrayed.”
In July, an attorney representing the troopers involved in Greene’s arrest told the court that the crash was the cause of his death and they would present evidence to back their claims.
“At trial, defendants will present scientific evidence that Mr. Greene’s death was caused by a crash-related blunt force chest trauma resulting in a fractured sternum and ruptured aorta,” P. Scott Wolleson wrote in a filing in a civil lawsuit brought by Greene’s family.
It’s still unclear if the new autopsy report will lead the Union Parish coroner to change the cause of Greene’s death from accidental to homicide.