Video shows US police beating a black man who died in custody

Footage sparks outrage anniversary of George Floyd's killing approaches

White police officers in the US state of Louisiana were captured on body camera video stunning, punching and dragging a black man as he apologised for leading them on a high-speed chase.

The footage of the man’s last moments alive were obtained by The Associated Press after authorities refused to release it for two years.

State troopers had initially told Ronald Greene’s family he died on impact after crashing into a tree during the chase.

“I’m your brother! I’m scared! I’m scared!” an unarmed Greene can be heard telling officers as he is jolted repeatedly with a stun gun before he even leaves his vehicle.

The graphic video is likely to further stoke racial tension in the US, where the murder of George Floyd, who was black, by a white Minneapolis policeman sparked global outrage one year ago.

Greene's 2019 arrest outside Monroe, Louisiana, is the subject of a federal civil rights investigation.

But unlike other in-custody deaths across the nation where body camera video was released almost immediately, Greene’s case has been shrouded in secrecy amid accusations of a cover-up.

Louisiana officials have rebuffed repeated calls to release footage and details about what caused the 49-year-old’s death.

After first telling his family he had died in the crash, state police later released a one-page statement acknowledging only that Greene had struggled with troopers and died on his way to the hospital.

Only now in the footage obtained by the AP from one trooper’s body camera can the public see for the first time some of what happened during the arrest.

The 46-minute clip shows one trooper wrestling Greene to the ground, putting him in a chokehold and punching him in the face while another can be heard shouting expletives at him.

Greene wails “I’m sorry!” as another trooper delivers another stun gun shock to his backside and says, “Look, you’re going to get it again if you don’t put your ... hands behind your back!”

Another trooper can be seen briefly dragging the man facedown after his legs had been shackled and his hands cuffed behind him.

Instead of rendering aid, the troopers leave him unattended, facedown and moaning for more than nine minutes, as they use sanitiser wipes to wash his blood off their hands and faces.

“I hope this guy ain’t got ... Aids,” one of the troopers can be heard saying.

After a several-minute stretch in which Greene is not seen on camera, he appears again, limp, unresponsive and bleeding from his head and face. He is then loaded on to an ambulance stretcher, his arm cuffed to the bedrail.

A lawyer for Greene’s family, Lee Merritt, said the footage 'has some of the same hallmarks of the George Floyd video, the length of it, the sheer brutality of it'. Greene family photo via AP
A lawyer for Greene’s family, Lee Merritt, said the footage 'has some of the same hallmarks of the George Floyd video, the length of it, the sheer brutality of it'. Greene family photo via AP

In many parts of the video, Greene is not on screen, and the trooper appears to cut the microphone off about halfway through, making it difficult to piece together exactly what was happening. At least six troopers were on the scene but not all had their body cameras on.

“They murdered him. It was set out, it was planned,” Greene’s mother, Mona Hardin, said Wednesday. “He didn’t have a chance. Ronnie didn’t have a chance. He wasn’t going to live to tell about it.”

A lawyer for Greene’s family, Lee Merritt, said the footage “has some of the same hallmarks of the George Floyd video, the length of it, the sheer brutality of it".

“He apologised in an attempt to surrender,” Mr Merritt said.

Louisiana State Police declined to comment on the contents of the video.

In a statement, the agency said the “premature public release of investigative files and video evidence in this case is not authorised and … undermines the investigative process and compromises the fair and impartial outcome.”

State police initially argued the troopers’ use of force was justified — “awful but lawful”, as ranking officials described it – and did not open an administrative investigation until 474 days after Greene’s death.

“Police departments have got to stop putting roadblocks up to information that is, in the public’s eye, questionable. They have to reveal all that they know, when they know it,” said Andrew Scott, a former Boca Raton, Florida, police chief who is an expert witness in use-of-force cases. “It suggests that you’re hiding something.”

While noting Greene “was not without fault” and appeared to resist the troopers’ orders, Mr Scott said dragging the handcuffed man facedown by his ankle shackles was “malicious, sadistic, completely unnecessary".

“That should never have never happened,” he said. “You’ve got the guy completely compromised. He’s not hurting anybody.”

Updated: May 21, 2021 10:11 PM

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