A reexamined autopsy of a Black man who died in police custody over two years ago has rejected the Louisiana State Police’s claim that his fatal injuries were caused by a car crash.
The FBI ordered the unusual second look of Ronald Greene considering the recent release of long-buried body camera footage, vehicle black box data, and other evidence the state police had been withholding since the man’s death in 2019.
The initial autopsy, conducted at the Arkansas State Crime Lab, listed Greene’s cause of death as “cocaine induced agitated delirium complicated by motor vehicle collision, physical struggle, inflicted head injury and restraint.” But it notably left unanswered whether the crash or excessive police force caused his most severe injuries, including a fractured breastbone and lacerated aorta.
The forensic review, received by the FBI last week, removes the crash and “agitated delirium” from the list of causes of Greene’s death and attributes a series of factors, including troopers hitting Greene in the head multiple times, restraining him at length and his use of cocaine.
The review also addresses whether the crash was severe enough to cause the fractured breastbone and ruptured aorta Greene had. According to the new review, those injuries were most likely inflicted during CPR and other life-saving efforts by first responders.
Greene died on May 10, 2019, after he failed to pull over for a traffic violation and led police on a high-speed car chase across Northern Louisiana. The pursuit ended on a rural road in Monroe, La after Greene crashed his car into a tree. Louisiana State Police initially blamed his death on the car crash and made no mention of the use of force by officers.
In May of this year, after two years of refusing to explain Greene’s death and under mounting public pressure, the state police released all body camera footage related to Greene’s arrest.
The body-camera footage showed troopers repeatedly jolting the 49-year-old unarmed man with stun guns, putting him in a chokehold, punching him in the head, and dragging him by his ankle shackles.
Use-of-force experts said the most dangerous and troubling parts of the arrest came after the struggle, when officers left the heavyset Greene facedown on the ground with his hands and feet restrained for more than nine minutes.
At one point in a new 30-minute video, Greene can be seen struggling to prop himself up on his side.
“Don’t you turn over! Lay on your belly! Lay on your belly!” Trooper Kory York yells before briefly dragging Greene by the chain that connects his ankle shackles.
Greene’s mother, Mona Hardin, said she hopes 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.”
The reexamined autopsy comes as federal prosecutors are in the final stages of a two-year civil rights investigation that began looking into Greene’s death but has since expanded to examine the beatings of several other Black motorists and whether top brass obstructed justice to shield troopers from possible prosecution.
It is still unclear whether the new autopsy will prompt the Union Parish coroner to change the manner of Greene’s death from accidental to homicide, which could affect the charges available to state and federal prosecutors.