The mother of Ronald Greene, the Black motorist who died at the hands of state troopers in 2019, testified Monday (Nov. 14) in a meeting of a state legislative panel investigating the case. Gov. John Bel Edwards was also asked to appear but had a scheduling conflict.
As she has done repeatedly, Mona Hardin traveled to Baton Rouge from her home in Orlando, Florida, in a quest for the truth about her son’s death. She attended Monday’s meeting of the Legislature’s special Ronald Greene committee and said she was again disappointed with the lack of answers from officials.
The committee asked Gov. Edwards to appear and answer questions about his knowledge of the case, but Edwards could not attend on such short notice, according to his office. Lawmakers notified him of the meeting Wednesday.
“Due to the short notice, there were conflicts with previously scheduled events and meetings for the governor, including an event he had out of town,” Edwards’ spokesman Eric Holl said.
The panel’s chairman, House Speaker Pro Tem Tanner Magee, R-Houma, also did not take part in Monday’s hearing. Vice-chairman Edmond Jordan, D-Baton Rouge, presided.
Lawmakers on the panel said they want to hear from the governor and at least one other person — Bob Brown, a former high-ranking State Police official — before they conclude their inquiry.
“We owe it to the public to determine where we are headed with this investigation,” Rep. Jason Hughes, D-New Orleans, said.
Greene, 49, died May 10, 2019, following a vehicle pursuit outside Monroe. Police footage shows Greene trying to surrender after he crashed his car when troopers shot him with Tasers. Greene was beaten, choked and dragged before being left 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 an 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 “agitated delirium” as factors causing his death.
“This is murder,” Hardin told the lawmakers. “This is murder, and it’s condoned.”
State Police Superintendent Col. Lamar Davis, who was not in charge of the agency when the Greene investigation began, told the panel of various changes he has implemented since taking over after the October 2020 retirement of his predecessor, Col. Kevin Reeves.
“If there are changes being done, why has it continued?” Hardin told the panel. “And why are your bad apples still employed?”
In response to questions from lawmakers, Davis said two of the troopers linked to Greene’s death, Lt. John Clary and Trooper Kory York, remain on regular duty with State Police. The revelation drew the ire of some lawmakers.
Rep. Deborah Villio, R-Kenner, said she is greatly concerned that Clary remains on duty after his body-camera footage showed him using “glaringly obvious” unlawful excessive force.
“Quite frankly, there are actions in that video that any prosecutor would tell you is unlawful — period, end of story — the first time you see it,” Villio said.
More than three years have passed without any criminal charges filed against any of the troopers in the case, though District Attorney John Belton, who represents Union and Lincoln parishes, was scheduled to present the case to a grand jury Monday. The Monroe News-Star reported that Belton is seeking indictments against York and former trooper Dakota Demoss.
In a phone interview after the hearing, Hardin said she does not have much faith in Belton and believes his actions are politically motivated. It was obvious from the first video that troopers murdered her son, and it should not have taken any prosecutor this long to act on the case, she said.
Belton, who could not be reached for comment Monday, has previously said he was waiting on federal authorities to conclude their investigation into the incident.
Rep. Tony Bacala, R-Prairieville, who spent decades in law enforcement before he was elected to office, said State Police leaders failed to hold one another accountable for Greene’s death.
“At the end of the day, people didn’t care enough,” Bacala said.
Hardin told the panel the lack of accountability extends to the governor for allowing Reeves to retire as the scandal was heating up. Edwards has repeatedly said Reeves’ retirement had nothing to do with the Greene case.
Davis apologized to Greene’s family in his closing remarks.
“To Ms. Hardin and their family, I am deeply sorry,” he said. “I can’t think of how rough this is for them day in and day out, and that’s what’s at the forefront of my heart and of my mind.”
This article first appeared on the Louisiana Illuminator and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.
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