NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A reexamined autopsy ordered by the FBI in the deadly 2019 arrest of Ronald Greene has rejected the Louisiana State Police claim that a car crash caused his fatal injuries, narrowing prosecutors’ focus on the troopers seen on body camera video beating, stunning and dragging the Black motorist.
The unusual second look at what killed Greene confirmed what his family suspected the moment they saw his bruised and battered corpse and his car with only slight damage: A minor crash at the end of a high-speed chase had nothing to do with his death.
The FBI this week received the new forensic review it commissioned in light of the long-buried body camera footage, vehicle black box data and other evidence the state police withheld from Greene’s original autopsy. The review, which did not involve another examination of the body, attributes Greene’s death to a series of factors, including troopers striking the 49-year-old in the head, restraining him at length and his use of cocaine.
The new review notably removes the crash and “agitated delirium” from the list of causes in Greene’s original autopsy, according to a person familiar with the findings who wasn’t authorized to discuss the federal inquiry and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.
It also addresses a key unanswered question from the original autopsy, whether the crash that didn’t deploy the airbag in Greene’s car was severe enough to cause a fractured breastbone and ruptured aorta. The new review determined those injuries were most likely the result of CPR and other life-saving efforts by first responders, the person familiar with the findings said.
Still unclear was whether the new autopsy would 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.
The new autopsy report 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.
Rafael Goyeneche, a former prosecutor who heads the Metropolitan Crime Commission, a New Orleans-based watchdog group, said the new cause of death makes it even more likely prosecutors will bring serious charges. “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.
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.”…By Jim Mustian and Jake Bleiberg